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Nine Common Causes of Fatigue

Although many health care providers dismiss reports of fatigue, sometimes it pays to identify the cause of this common symptom.

Despite it affecting just about everyone at some time or another, fatigue can signal a potentially serious problem. Its universal prevalence often results in both fatigue sufferers and attending healthcare professionals to ignore its presence. However, familiarity with the following nine common causes of fatigue may help indicate when this symptom should be carefully analyzed.

Normal Fatigue

As the symptom most frequently complained about to family, friends, co-workers and physicians, fatigue is a feeling of tiredness, exhaustion or lack of energy. Some kinds of fatigue are considered to be normal, such as during or following:

  • Pregnancy
  • Physical exertion
  • Lack of exercise
  • Emotional stress
  • Boredom
  • Fighting an infection
  • Receiving less than a full night’s sleep

Most of the time, mild fatigue associated with a health problem will improve with home treatment and does not require a doctor visit. However, fatigue that persists beyond these parameters may have an underlying cause.

Nine Reasons to Investigate Fatigue

While exhaustion may simply be your body’s request for rejuvenating sleep, it could also be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. The following problems could be causing:

  1. Allergies – Both seasonal allergies and food allergies are a common cause of fatigue. Since seasonal allergies can cause nasal congestion, sleep may be disrupted from an inability to breathe through the nose. Whether due to seasonal or food allergies, both will illicit a release of histamine into the bloodstream. While histamine produces “typical” allergic reactions like sneezing, hives and itchy or burning eyes, it can also cause fatigue.
  2. Anemia – Anemia occurs when there is a deficiency of red blood cells, leading to insufficient amounts of oxygen being delivered from your lungs to the rest of your body. Anemia can result from heavy menstrual cycles, fibroid tumors, uterine polyps, excessive blood loss, internal bleeding, or a deficiency of iron, folic acid, or vitamin B-12. Aside from fatigue, additional symptoms of anemia can include dizziness, feeling cold and irritability.
  3. Hypothyroidism – By regulating the way your body uses energy, the thyroid gland controls metabolism. Some experts estimate that 40 percent of the adult population suffers from some degree of hypothyroidism. In those suffering from hypothyroidism, fatigue is often accompanied by poor concentration, depression, mental confusion, memory disturbances, cold hands and feet, obesity, difficult weight loss, menstrual problems, dry skin and thinning hair.
  4. Urinary Tract Infection – Due to a bacterial infection in the urinary tract, an undiagnosed (and thus untreated) urinary tract infection could cause severe fatigue. Although most people associate a urinary tract infection with symptoms such as burning or urgency, sometimes fatigue is the only symptom. Unfortunately, an untreated, persistent urinary tract infection can end up as a kidney infection.
  5. Heart Disease – If overwhelming fatigue sets in after ordinary tasks, a problem with the heart could be the culprit. However, there are usually other indicators of a cardiac problem, such as heart palpitations, chest discomfort, dizziness and shortness of breath.
  6. Sleep Apnea – A sleep disorder where you momentarily stop breathing, sleep apnea awakens its victims just long enough to disrupt the sleep cycle. Sleep apnea is caused by an upper airway obstruction more common in those who are overweight or obese. Diagnosis requires a visit to a sleep lab, or to a doctor specializing in sleep apnea. Left untreated, sleep apnea can increase your risk of stroke or heart attack.
  7. Diabetes – A metabolic disorder where sugar remains in the blood rather than entering the body’s cells to be used for energy, diabetes commonly causes fatigue. If fatigue is accompanied by excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss even with an increased appetite, blurry vision, irritability or skin problems, make sure to rule out diabetes with your doctor.
  8. Liver Disease – Commonly described as one its most prominent symptoms, fatigue commonly results from liver disease. With a damaged liver, fatigue-causing chemicals can build-up in the bloodstream. In addition, liver disease can change the body’s production of melatonin – a substance that regulates the sleep cycle. Those with liver disease typically report fatigue as soon as they wake in the morning.
  9. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – One of the most debilitating forms of fatigue is chronic fatigue syndrome. To diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome, doctors must exclude other causes of fatigue and determine that the fatigue has lasted for at least six months and includes four of the following other symptoms; problems with memory or concentration, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle or multiple joint pain, un-refreshing sleep, post-exertional malaise or headache.

While most of the nine conditions listed above have clearly defined treatments that can eliminate fatigue fairly rapidly, others require lifestyle adjustments and product combinations to slowly chip away at fatigue. Regardless, all of these conditions have a better prognosis the earlier they are identified and addressed. Because some of the causes can cause great harm if undetected, fatigue that lies outside the norm should always be investigated by you and your physician., Tired of being tired? Hidden causes of fatigue–and how to fight them, Kelly James-Enger, Retrieved January 25, 2009, Vibrant Life, November-December 2001, CBS Interactive, Inc., 2009., Why Am I So Tired? 7 Causes of Fatigue, Colette Bouchez, Retrieved January 24, 2009, WebMD, LLC, 2009., Causes of Fatigue, Deana Lawton, Retrieved January 23, 2009, Associated Content, Inc., January 2009., Fatigue and the Liver, Melissa Palmer, MD, Retrieved January 25, 2009, Melissa Palmer, MD, 2009., Fatigue, Retrieved January 25, 2009, US National Library of Medicine, 2009., Fatigue: Five Likely Causes of a Common and Debilitating Problem, Kimberly Pryor, Retrieved January 24, 2009, Vitamin Research Products, 2009., Fatigue and Weakness, Retrieved January 24, 2009, WebMD, LLC, 2009., Heart Disease: Symptoms, Retrieved January 25, 2009, WebMD, LLC, 2009.

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