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What is fatigue?

Fatigue is mental and physical exhaustion that does not get better with rest. Fatigue may make daily activities difficult or cause extreme sleepiness. It is normal to feel tired sometimes, but long-term fatigue may be a sign of serious illness.

What causes fatigue?

  • Health conditions such as anemia, thyroid problems, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer
  • An infection or a sleep disorder
  • Depression, anxiety, or stress
  • Medicines such as beta-blockers, antihistamines, or antidepressants
  • Lack of proper nutrition

How is fatigue diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask you questions to try to find the cause of your fatigue. He will ask about your sleep habits, appetite, activities, stress level, and exercise. He will ask about your medical history and what medicines you take. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests check for infection, diabetes, and other illnesses. These tests also show how your thyroid, liver, kidneys, and other organs are working.
  • Urine tests show if you are pregnant, or have other health problems.
  • Sleep studies may be used to find out if your fatigue is caused by a sleep disorder.

How is fatigue treated?

Your symptoms may get better without treatment. You will receive treatment for any health conditions that may be causing your fatigue. The following can help you manage your fatigue:

  • Keep a fatigue diary. Include anything that makes you feel more tired or less tired.
  • Exercise as directed. Exercise can help you feel more alert. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night, and limit naps.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Good nutrition can help manage fatigue.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol. These can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor. Ask your healthcare provider how much caffeine is safe for you.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage and increase fatigue. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have chest pain.
  • You have difficulty breathing.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a cough that gets worse, or does not go away.
  • You see blood in your bowel movement.
  • You have numbness or tingling around your mouth or in an arm or leg.
  • You faint, feel dizzy, or have vision changes.
  • You have swelling in your lymph nodes.
  • You are a woman and have vaginal bleeding that is not normal for you, or is not expected.
  • You lose weight without trying, or you have trouble eating.
  • You feel weak or have muscle pain.
  • You have pain or swelling in your joints.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.