Nearly everyone gets overtired or overworked from time to time. Such instances of temporary tiredness can be a normal response to physical and mental activity.
It also may be related to lack of sleep, jet lag, lack of physical activity, side effects of medications or an unhealthy diet.
However, unrelenting exhaustion or fatigue is more profound. It is very different than drowsiness, though both can occur at the same time.
When suffering from fatigue, you experience unexplained, persistent and relapsing exhaustion that does not get better with rest.
If you have a constant lack of energy and ongoing fatigue, it may be due to some underlying health problem.
Here are 10 medical reasons that might be making you tired and fatigued all the time.
1. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
One of the main medical reasons behind fatigue is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
CFS involves severe and disabling fatigue and tiredness that goes on for months. If you have this condition, you may experience extreme fatigue after normal physical or mental activities, which can last for more than 24 hours after the activity. It does not even improve with rest.
Apart from fatigue, other symptoms include a sore throat, muscle or joint pain, and headaches.
The exact cause of CFS is not yet known. However, researchers believe that viruses, hypotension (unusually low blood pressure), a weakened immune system and hormonal imbalances are contributing factors.
Self-care measures as well as several treatment options may help people suffering from CFS.
In a 2015 study, a team from Oxford University, King’s College London and Queen Mary University of London looked at four potential treatments for CFS. They found cognitive behavioral therapy and graded exercise therapy are treatment options with the best outcomes.
Fatigue is a common symptom of all types of anemia. Anemia is a condition characterized by low levels of hemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying chemical in the bloodstream. Lack of oxygen in the body causes constant fatigue and tiredness.
A 2002 study published in Seminars in Oncology shows a strong relationship between fatigue and anemia.
Fatigue along with shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, cold hands and feet, pale skin and chest pain are symptoms of anemia.
Get your blood checked to find out whether you are anemic. Proper diagnosis and management of anemia are important for overall health.
3. Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism)
Fatigue is a debilitating symptom for thyroid patients, especially those who suffer from hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid.
The thyroid gland helps regulate metabolism, which is the rate at which the body uses energy. When the gland is not making enough thyroid hormones, it results in constant fatigue, tiredness and low energy.
According to a 2012 study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, autoimmune hypothyroidism patients had significantly higher levels of fatigue as compared to differentiated thyroid carcinoma patients.
Along with fatigue, other symptoms of hypothyroidism are sudden weight gain, muscle soreness, hair loss, dry skin and increased sensitivity to cold. If you are experiencing these symptoms, consult your doctor.
An underactive thyroid can be easily diagnosed by taking a blood test.
Fatigue and tiredness are a common complaint among people with diabetes, which hinders the ability to perform day-to-day activities.
According to a 2014 study published in Diabetes Care, chronic fatigue is highly prevalent in Type 1 diabetes patients.
It is not yet clear why diabetes makes people so tired. However, it is believed that as the body needs to use an ample amount of energy to deal with frequent changes in blood sugar levels, it results in fatigue. Fatigue and weakness occur despite eating properly and getting adequate sleep.
If you suffer from fatigue along with increased thirst and hunger, increased urination and unexpected weight loss, get yourself checked by a doctor. Early diagnosis allows for better treatment.
Fibromyalgia is another common cause of chronic fatigue and musculoskeletal pain, especially in women. It is described as a disorder of the muscles, joints and fibrous tissues.
In cases of fibromyalgia, fatigue is accompanied with feelings of depression, and often, social withdrawal.
According to a 2013 study published in Arthritis Research and Therapy, fatigue is one of the most common complaints among fibromyalgia patients. However, it has received less attention than chronic body pain.
Along with chronic fatigue, other symptoms of fibromyalgia are deep muscle pain, painful tender points, sleep problems, anxiety and depression.
Consult your doctor if you’re having these symptoms, as with time your condition could worsen and severely affect the quality of your personal and professional life.
6. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis, commonly known as MS, is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord.
Here the body’s immune system attacks myelin, which is an insulating coating around nerve cells. Women appear to be more prone to this disease than men.
Fatigue is a common symptom of MS. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 80 percent of people with MS suffer from fatigue. This fatigue gets worse as the day goes on, and heat and humidity can worsen the condition.
A 2008 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research reports that restless legs syndrome as well as poor sleep quality and daytime fatigue are common in MS patients.
Another 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports that sleep disturbances, and obstructive sleep apnea in particular, may be highly prevalent yet under recognized contributors to fatigue in people who have multiple sclerosis (MS).
Some of the other symptoms of MS are numbness or weakness in one or more limbs, tingling or pain in parts of your body, slurred speech and dizziness.
There is no cure for this disease. However, with timely diagnosis and treatment, you can slow the progression and reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Depression can make a person feel extremely tired, even after a good night’s rest. Plus, people who are depressed often suffer from sleep problems.
Any kind of sleep problem affects your energy level. According to the World Health Organization, more than 350 million people suffer from depression.
Fatigue is a common symptom in patients with depression. This has been proven by a 2004 study published in Psychiatry. Depression triggers a lower production of various neurotransmitters, which results in chronic fatigue.
Another 2014 study published in Depression and Anxiety reports that diagnosis and treatment of fatigue in patients with depression is poor. This causes more severe and longer-persisting depression.
If left untreated, depression can lead to suicide. It is important to consult a doctor if you experience constant fatigue as well as feeling sad, hopeless, worthless and helpless.
8. Glandular Fever
Glandular fever, also known as infectious mononucleosis, is a viral infection that causes severe fatigue. Other symptoms include a fever, loss of appetite, aching muscles, a sore throat and swollen glands.
While other symptoms of glandular fever go away within a month, patients suffer from fatigue for several months.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Infectious Disease reports that risk of either prolonged fatigue or chronic fatigue syndrome in glandular fever is five to six times that of other common upper respiratory tract infections.
Another 2011 study published in Psychological Medicines also reports the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome following an acute episode of glandular fever.
If you suspect you have glandular fever, see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
9. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a very common disorder that can cause daytime fatigue and tiredness. In this sleep disorder, a person’s breathing is interrupted or even stopped involuntarily while sleeping. It occurs due to blocked or narrowed airways in your nose, mouth or throat.
A 2000 study published in Chest reports that complaints of fatigue, tiredness or lack of energy may be as important as that of sleepiness to patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.
If you are experiencing chronic fatigue along with feeling exhausted upon awakening, a headache after waking up and snoring, you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Consult your doctor immediately. Even a small amount of sleep deprivation can harm your health and mood.
Women who are perimenopausal or going through menopause commonly feel fatigued. Estrogen, progesterone, thyroid and adrenal hormones are involved in regulating cellular energy in the body. During menopause, the hormone levels fluctuate a lot, which can lead to fatigue.
Plus, during this stage, women find it hard to get good sleep due to night sweats and hot flashes. Lack of sleep leaves you dragging during the day.
Fatigue even exacerbates other menopausal symptoms, such as anxiety, poor concentration and a lack of confidence.
Early menopause as well as menstrual abnormalities, endometriosis, pelvic pain and hysterectomy are all related to chronic fatigue syndrome, according to a 2015 study published in Menopause.
In fact, chronic fatigue syndrome is two to four times more common in women than men and is most prevalent in women in their 40s.