|Spanish Multimedia Encyclopedia|
Fatigue is a feeling of weariness, tiredness, or lack of energy.
Tiredness; Weariness; Exhaustion; Lethargy
Fatigue is different from drowsiness. In general, drowsiness is feeling the need to sleep, while fatigue is a lack of energy and motivation. Drowsiness and apathy (a feeling of indifference or not caring about what happens) can be symptoms that go along with fatigue.
Fatigue can be a normal and important response to physical exertion, emotional stress, boredom, or lack of sleep. However, it can also be a nonspecific sign of a more serious psychological or physical disorder. When fatigue is not relieved by enough sleep, good nutrition, or a low-stress environment, it should be evaluated by your doctor. Fatigue is a common symptom, and is usually not due to a serious disease.
The pattern of fatigue may help your doctor determine its underlying cause. For example, if you wake up in the morning rested but rapidly develop fatigue with activity, you may have an ongoing physical condition like an underactive thyroid. On the other hand, if you wake up with a low level of energy and have fatigue that lasts throughout the day, you may be depressed.
There are many possible physical and psychological causes of fatigue. Some of the more common are:
Fatigue can also accompany the following illnesses:
Certain medications may also cause drowsiness or fatigue, including antihistamines for allergies, blood pressure medicines, sleeping pills, steroids, and diuretics.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that starts with flu-like symptoms and lasts for 6 months or more. All other possible causes of fatigue are eliminated before this diagnosis is made. Most people with CFS do not get much relief from rest.
Here are some tips for reducing fatigue:
If you have chronic pain or depression, treating either often helps the fatigue. However, some antidepressant medications may cause or worsen fatigue. Your medication may have to be adjusted to avoid this problem. DO NOT stop or change any medications without instruction from your doctor.
Stimulants (including caffeine) are NOT effective treatments for fatigue, and can actually make the problem worse when the drugs are stopped. Sedatives also tend to worsen fatigue in the long run.
Call your doctor right away if:
Call your doctor if:
Your doctor will perform a complete physical examination, paying special attention to your heart, lymph nodes, thyroid, and nervous system. You will be asked questions about your medical history, symptoms, and your lifestyle, habits, and feelings.
Questions may include:
Tests that may be performed include the following:
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Griggs RC, Jozefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007: chap 418.
Bennett B, Goldstein D, Friedlanger M, Hickie I, Lloyd A. The experience of cancer-related fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome: a qualitative and comparative study. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2007; May e-pub.