Fatigue has become one of the most common problems prevalent today. It involves not just physical, but also a mental state of feeling extremely tired. While both physical and mental fatigue is two different things, but they usually occur together. Over a period of time, long term physical exhaustion ends up causing mental fatigue as well.

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Fatigue or being overtired can have a serious impact on your quality of life and in spite of having many possible underlying causes, sometimes it simply becomes impossible to determine the exact cause of your fatigue. Mood and anxiety disorders are also commonly associated with fatigue. As fatigue is a non-specific symptom, it is not generally associated with one particular disease, but it is a major symptom for many medical conditions. Chronic fatigue is also found to be one of the most commonly reported complaints to medical care providers. Today we look at what are the reasons for chronic fatigue and how you can deal with chronic fatigue.

What are the Reasons For Chronic Fatigue?

What is Chronic Fatigue?

Chronic fatigue has become a common problem in the world today. It involves both physical and mental fatigue. Fatigue can be defined as a generalized state of feeling weak, worn out, depleted or drained out. In some cases, a distinction is made by doctors between mental and physical fatigue, but in most cases, they tend to occur together.

Physical fatigue refers to a diminished capacity to maintain day-to-day physical activity or experiencing an inability to initiate even the most basic physical task. Mental fatigue, on the other hand, is typically characterized by experiencing difficulties in concentration, having a poor memory, and lack of emotional stability.

Lifestyle factors, mental health conditions, and any medical condition are usually believed to be the cause of chronic fatigue. At the same time, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is also a disorder that is characterized by extreme fatigue that cannot be explained by any medical condition. Your doctor will need to assess your case and go through your medical and family history in order to determine the cause of chronic fatigue.

Reasons for Chronic Fatigue

Fatigue could be caused by numerous underlying medical condition. However, only a small proportion of patients reporting chronic fatigue usually end up having an underlying medical disorder as being the primary cause of their fatigue. Some of the reasons that cause fatigue are discussed below.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

One of the common causes of chronic fatigue is if you are suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). CFS is a medical disorder that is characterized by chronic fatigue and has no apparent cause. It is also accompanied by some type of cognitive difficulties including verbal dyslexia, short-term memory loss, etc.

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CFS is marked by the occurrence of post-exertional malaise, a condition where you experience a massive energy crash after even minor physical exertion. Due to this, CFS is sometimes also referred to as Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID).

The cause of CFS remains unknown, though it is believed to be caused by an infectious disease that leads to immunologic manifestations. A person having CFS typically has a history of an infection usually caused by Chlamydia pneumoniae.

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There is no specific diagnostic test that can be used to diagnose CFS and doctors diagnose the condition based on clinical criteria supported by carrying out certain non-specific tests. Doctors will rule out CFS if there is a clear absence of cognitive dysfunction.

Lack of Sleep

It is a well-known fact that lack of sufficient sleep causes fatigue. Over a period of time, if you continue to lose sleep, then you will eventually reach a stage where you experience chronic fatigue all the time. Apart from feeling fatigued, lack of proper sleep is also going to affect your overall well-being and health.

Any healthy adult should aim for getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Try to create a healthy sleeping routine and follow it diligently. For example, try to go to bed at the same time every night and try and wake up also at the same time each morning. This will help you in creating a sleep schedule. Also, ensure that you sleep on a comfortable mattress, your phone and television or laptop are switched off, and that your room is dark and cool to help you have a better quality of sleep.

If you are still not able to sleep even after changing your sleeping environment and habits, then consulting a doctor would be helpful as it might be possible that you are suffering from a sleep disorder.

For example, sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a type of serious sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. The condition causes patients to briefly stop breathing for a short period of time while they are sleeping. Most people remain unaware of this happening and it can also cause loud snoring as well as daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, drinking excessive alcohol, and smoking, are all factors that worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea. If you suffer from a sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea, then your doctor may prescribe a CPAP device to help your airways stay open while sleeping.

Fibromyalgia

Another common reason for experiencing chronic fatigue is fibromyalgia, a condition that is characterized by chronic pain, widespread muscle pain and stiffness, and chronic fatigue. Not only does fibromyalgia cause physical pain, but it also causes a huge amount of mental distress.

It has often been observed that the symptoms of fibromyalgia get confused with those of joint inflammation or arthritis. However, unlike the condition of arthritis, fibromyalgia does not cause joint damage, muscle inflammation, or muscle damage. Fibromyalgia is regarded as a rheumatic condition, meaning it causes myofascial pain or soft tissue pain.

Fibromyalgia needs to be treated because if left untreated, it becomes difficult to manage this condition. Every patient experiences a different set of symptoms and therefore, doctors prefer to create individual treatment plans. Some common treatment plants for fibromyalgia include:

Being Underweight or Overweight/Obese

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of experiencing chronic fatigue for several reasons. The primary reason being that your body has to carry around all the extra weight. You are also more likely to experience muscle and joint pain, and also have a condition where chronic fatigue is one of the common symptoms, such as sleep apnea or diabetes.

At the same time, a person who is underweight also tends to become tired more easily. This depends on what is the cause of their weight condition. For example, certain eating disorder, cancer, having an overactive thyroid, and chronic disease can all cause a person to lose weight and become underweight, feeling fatigue and overtired all the time.

If you feel you are gaining or losing weight due to no apparent reason, then you should get a medical opinion since there is likely to be an underlying medical cause behind this weight gain/weight loss. Managing a healthy weight is ideal for preventing chronic fatigue and many other chronic lifestyle diseases.

Anemia

Anemia occurs when there is an iron deficiency in the body. Iron deficiency is one of the most common reasons why women experience chronic fatigue. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body, with iron being the primary component of these cells. When there is not enough iron in the body, you are unable to get the oxygen you require for energy.

Women who experience heavy menstrual periods or are pregnant are at a much higher risk of developing anemia. If you are anemic and deficient in iron, then you need to replenish your body's iron through diet or through iron supplements. Iron-rich foods such as beans, tofu, meats, broccoli, nuts, potatoes, brown rice, and iron-fortified cereals, are ideal to boost your iron levels. If you want to take iron supplements, though, do not start taking them without consulting your doctor first.

Conclusion

Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and cognitive behavioral therapy, are all activities that have been shown to relieve chronic fatigue, help relieve your stress, and also treat certain sleep disturbances. Yoga, especially, has been shown to improve the symptoms of fatigue and also improve sleep quality in people who are experiencing chronic fatigue.

A healthy diet can also help relieve your fatigue. Eat small and frequent meals through the day to keep up your energy levels. Eat snacks that are low in sugar so that you don't experience a sugar crash, causing further fatigue. Avoid junk food and consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to remain active throughout the day.

Avoiding alcoholic and caffeinated beverages will also help. If you are a smoker, then quitting smoking will also relieve your chronic fatigue symptoms. It has been proven that a well-balanced and moderate diet will help you have better sleep and will also be good for your overall health.

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Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

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Last Modified On: April 16, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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