Fatigue (physical, mental, or both) is a symptom that may be tough for a patient to describe, and he/she uses words like exhausted or tired.

Taking a careful and complete history is the key to help to make the underlying diagnosis of the cause for the symptom of fatigue. However, in about a third of patients, the cause is not found and the diagnosis is not known.

There are numerous causes of fatigue symptoms. Examples of some treatable causes of fatigue include anemia, diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease, COPD, and sleep disorders.

Why am I so tired?

Fatigue is mainly a symptom and not a disease in itself. Fatigue can be described as a lack of energy and motivation (both physical and mental). This is different than drowsiness, a term that describes the need to sleep. Often a person complains of feeling tired and it is up to the health care professional to distinguish between fatigue and drowsiness, though both can occur at the same time. Aside from drowsiness, other symptoms can be confused with fatigue including shortness of breath with activity and muscle weakness. Again, all these symptoms can occur at the same time.

Fatigue can be a normal response to physical and mental activity; in most normal individuals it is quickly relieved (usually in hours to about a day, depending on the intensity of the activity) by reducing the activity.

Fatigue is a very common complaint and it is important to remember that it is a symptom and not a disease. Many illnesses can result in the complaint of fatigue and they can be physical, psychological, or a combination of the two.

Often, the symptom of fatigue has a gradual onset and the person may not be aware of how much energy they have lost until they try to compare their ability to complete tasks from one-time frame to another.

They may presume that their fatigue is due to aging and ignore the symptom. This may lead to a delay in seeking care.

While it is true that depression and other psychiatric issues may be the reason for fatigue, it is reasonable to make certain that there is not an underlying physical illness that is the root cause.

Individuals with fatigue may have three primary complaints; however, it can vary in each person.

There may be a lack of motivation or the ability to begin an activity; the person tires easily once the activity has begun, and the person has mental fatigue or difficulty with concentration and memory to start or complete an activity.

Chronic Fatigue

While fatigue can last for a prolonged period of time, the presence of chronic fatigue is different than chronic fatigue syndrome, which has a specific set of two criteria:

Have severe chronic fatigue for at least six months or longer with other known medical conditions (whose manifestation includes fatigue) excluded by clinical diagnosis.

Concurrently have four or more of the following symptoms:

  • post-exertional malaise;
  • impaired memory or concentration;
  • unrefreshing sleep;
  • muscle pain;
  • multi-joint pain without redness or swelling;
  • tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes;
  • sore throat;
  • headache.

Other words that a person might use to describe fatigue may include:

  • lethargic;
  • listless;
  • lack of energy;
  • tired;
  • worn out;
  • weary;
  • exhausted;
  • malaise;
  • feeling run down.

If you suffer from fatigue for a long time and you are ready to start fighting your bad state and choose the proper treatment, please contact a doctor and get a free consultation now.