10 Reasons You May Be Feeling Fatigued
Most of us feel listless from time to time and brush it off to a bad night’s sleep. But exhaustion can be a serious health issue. “Fatigue can be caused by a variety of underlying health conditions and issues,” says Dr. Douglas Dieterich, professor of medicine in the division of liver diseases at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “For anyone experiencing excessive, unexplained and unresolved fatigue, it’s key to speak to your doctor right away, as he or she can help determine what may be causing it.” Here are 10 conditions that can cause exhaustion and might require medical attention:
The liver is a critical but often overlooked organ. Fatigue can be a symptom of primary biliary cholangitis, a chronic disease that progressively destroys the bile ducts in your liver, according to the American Liver Foundation. Bile, a fluid produced by the liver, helps cleanse the body of worn-out red blood cells, cholesterol and toxins, plus helps digest food. Damaged bile ducts allow harmful substances to build up in your liver. Researchers believe the condition is caused by genetic and environmental factors. PBC develops slowly, and its progression can be slowed by medication. Ask your doctor for liver blood tests, which can reveal enzyme levels that are a marker for PBC.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is critical to our bone density, muscle strength and tooth health. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency includes chronic fatigue, bone and muscle aches and arthritis. You can increase your vitamin D level by eating cheese, egg yolks, mushrooms and beef liver. Vitamin supplements can also help, as well as spending more time in the sun; the interaction of ultraviolet light from the sun with the skin prompts the body to produce its own vitamin D. To avoid skin cancer, be sure to wear sunscreen and avoid being outdoors during the hours when the sun is strongest during the summer: between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Your thyroid is a small gland in the center of your neck that regulates energy levels. Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. A feeling of constant sluggishness can be a symptom of hypothyroidism, which can also cause weight gain and elevated cholesterol levels. Standard treatment for hypothyroidism involves daily intake of the synthetic hormone levothyroxine, according to the Mayo Clinic. The medication restores healthy and adequate hormone levels and reverses the effects of hypothyroidism. People with the disease typically have to take the medication the rest of their lives and should check with their doctor about their proper dosage, which can change over time.
Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type of this blood disorder, which often causes fatigue, according to the American Society of Hematology. Iron deficiency is usually caused by blood loss but can be associated with poor absorption of iron. Pregnancy and childbirth consume high levels of iron and can lead to pregnancy-related anemia. The condition can also be caused by low levels of vitamin B-12 or folate. Treatment for iron-deficiency anemia typically involves taking iron supplements and eating iron-rich foods such as spinach, beef or chicken liver. Anemia caused by vitamin deficiency can be treated with vitamin supplements or vitamin B-12 shots.
Getting older leads to loss of muscle mass, which in turn causes reductions in physical strength and higher levels of fatigue. At age 70, people typically have lost about 30 percent of the muscle mass they had at age 20. Weight training can help compensate for age-related muscle loss and develop stronger bone mass. Lifting weights or engaging in other types of resistance training can improve endurance, too.
Feeling tired all the time and having difficulty with such activities as climbing stairs or carrying groceries could be warning signs of heart failure, according to the American Heart Association. Fatigue can be caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood to meet the needs of body tissues. This prompts the body to divert blood from less vital organs, such as muscles in limbs, to the heart and brain. If you’re experiencing increased fatigue and suspect it’s related to heart failure, see your doctor. Physicians typically treat heart problems with a combination of medications, including beta blockers and diuretics. Surgery may be an option for some patients.
Chronic fatigue syndrome
CFS is a complicated disorder characterized by such symptoms as extreme fatigue, memory loss, concentration problems and unexplained muscle pain. The condition can’t be attributed to any specific underlying medical condition, according to the Mayo Clinic. Theories for what causes the disorder include viral infections and psychological stress. There’s no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, but you may need an array of other medical exams to rule out other health issues with similar symptoms, such as fibromyalgia. Treatment can include medications such as antidepressants, exercise and psychological counseling.
This neurological disorder affects the control of sleep and wakefulness, according to the Cleveland Clinic. People with narcolepsy experience high levels of feeling sleepy during the daytime. Some also experience uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep, which can happen at any time of day during any type of activity. Narcoleptics can also experience disrupted nighttime sleep and vivid hallucinations. Doctors can diagnose narcolepsy via a physical, obtaining the patient’s medical and sleep history and conducting sleep testing. Narcolepsy treatment typically involves keeping to a regular sleeping schedule, taking short naps as needed and avoiding central nervous system depressants like alcohol.
This sleep disorder is marked by stops and starts in the patient’s breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnea may feel fatigued even after a full night’s sleep, says Dr. Victoria Shin, a cardiologist at Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Torrance, California. Most people with sleep apnea are obese; the airway of obese people can be pressed on and obstructed by soft tissue of the mouth and throat during sleep. Treatment for milder cases could involve losing weight. Devices that provides air pressure through a mask placed over your nose while you sleep and surgery to enlarge the airway through your nose are also options.
Exhaustion could be an indicator of stress, according to the Cleveland Clinic. “While stress may be trivialized in today’s fast-paced digital culture, it should be taken seriously as a health risk, as unmanaged stress can manifest as a variety of other serious health concerns,” says Dr. Paul J. Gaglio, the director of hepatology outreach at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. “Luckily, stress and related fatigue can often be relieved through lifestyle modifications that your doctor can help you with.”