Fatigue is a common issue for many people, and as a physician, I often hear this in my practice. Finding the origin of the fatigue and treating it can be challenging, but with some simple steps, my patients and I can work together as a team to find a solution. Below is the process I follow and the advice I provide my patients:
Start with focusing on making some positive lifestyle changes, such as improved sleep, a healthy diet, taking multivitamins, and ensuring adequate fluid intake.
- The most common cause of fatigue is too little sleep. Most adults need seven to eight hours a night, but some may need as little as five hours or as much as 10 hours of sleep a night.
- Being dehydrated can make us feel sluggish. Water helps to flush out toxins, maintain hydration, and keep good energy levels.
- A proper diet is important. Not eating enough, or having the wrong foods can be a problem. Select foods that are high in protein and avoid simple carbohydrates.
Give these lifestyle changes two to three weeks to take effect. If you are still feeling fatigued, it may be a good time to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.
During your appointment, your doctor will want to conduct a thorough medical history and check for any medical conditions that may be contributing to fatigue, such as anemia, depression, diabetes, sleep apnea, and thyroid disease.
- Anemia– This occurs when there is a lower than normal level of red blood cells which carry oxygen to cells and tissues throughout the body. Anemia can be diagnosed with a physical exam and blood test.
- Depression– A mental disorder that can present with multiple physical symptoms. Your physician can screen you for depression.
- Diabetes– High blood sugar levels can slow circulation and prevent oxygen and nutrients from reaching all parts of the body. This can be diagnosed with a blood test.
- Sleep Apnea– When a person has shallow breathing or pauses in breathing while sleeping this results in poor sleep quality. Sleep apnea can be diagnosed with a sleep study that monitors sleep patterns, breathing changes, and brain activity.
- Thyroid Disease – Having an underactive thyroid is quite common. It can be easily diagnosed with a physical exam and blood test.
While this is not a comprehensive list of all causes of fatigue, it is a good start to determining the origin of your fatigue. If you are concerned about fatigue, it is important to seek advice from a physician.