Fighting Fatigue

If you keep nodding off at meetings, and yawning your way through lunch, it might be a simple case of lack of sleep. But be careful, constant blah-ness may be a symptom of a more serious illness like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  

What is it?

Short-term fatigue, that weary feeling you get after a stressful day or a long trip, is normal. But long-term, constant fatigue—the kind you feel every day, no matter what you’ve been doing—is not.

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints of people who visit a doctor. It can be a side effect of prescription drugs. It can also be caused by conditions such as depression, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux, or sleep apnea (a breathing disorder that causes frequent awakening during the night).

Thyroid disease affects 15 percent or more of adults and is a common cause of tiredness. About 10 to 15 per cent of women in North America have iron-deficiency anemia, which causes fatigue.

How is it Treated?

A simple blood test can help your doctor diagnose both conditions. Some older adults lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food, which also causes anemia. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be detected by a blood test and is treated by injections or by giving high oral doses of the vitamin.

In most cases, however, fatigue is caused by the lifestyle choices we make—smoking, drinking, a poor diet, too little exercise, overeating, and plain old lack of sleep. Fatigue may also accompany loneliness or boredom.

If you are often tired for reasons you can’t explain, see your doctor, who can determine whether there is a medical explanation and suggest an appropriate course of treatment. If your fatigue is not due to an underlying illness or condition, adopting certain changes in your lifestyle, diet, and exercise habits can make a significant difference.

Recognizing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

CFS is an illness marked by intense exhaustion and flu-like symptoms. Long-term fatigue could be CFS if the condition lasts at least six months, and is accompanied by some of the following symptoms: severe fatigue unrelated to a medical cause, loss of short-term memory and concentration, sore throat, tender lymph glands, fever, muscle pain, joint pain without swelling or redness, severe head-aches, and sleep disturbances. If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor. There is no cure for CFS, but there are ways to manage the symptoms.

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