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Fatigue - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

Last Updated: Nov 11, 2019

What is Fatigue?

Fatigue is the lack of motivation or energy (both mental and physical). Fatigue is different from drowsiness (the urge to sleep). Usually fatigue and drowsiness is diagnosed by a healthcare professional as it can be difficult to tell the difference between drowsiness and fatigue.It is usually difficult for the patient to describe fatigue it is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, lethargy and tiredness. Sometimes, fatigue can also be an underlying symptom of a much fatal disorder such as various sleep disorders, hear diseases, COPD, thyroid diseases, diabetes and anemia. In severe cases, fatigue can also result to Chronic fatigue syndrome.

What are the different types of fatigue?

There are different types of fatigue like physical fatigue and mental fatigue in general terms whereas chronic fatigue, transient fatigue and cumulative fatigue representing some medical conditions. Physical fatigue can be described as fatigue occurring as a result of continuous work for a longer period of time or any other type of excess physical excursion.

Fatigue can be considered as mental fatigue when sleepiness and reduced attention and ability to perform any complex or even simple task are observed or noticed. On the other side, extreme fatigue experienced by a person is called a chronic fatigue state while fatigue causing restriction of sleep for one or two days is called acute fatigue or transient fatigue.

What are the first signs of fatigue?

Fatigue is a condition where a person feels or experiences a lack of energy, unexplained exhaustion at mental and/or physical levels. This condition is affecting normal well-being at emotional as well as psychological levels. Signs that are indicators of fatigue are tired eyes and legs, the problem in concentration, difficulty in breathing, severe and sudden headaches, unrefreshing sleep or feeling sleepy after regular sleep, muscle pain and lethargic condition, and impaired hand-to-eye coordination.

Some other symptoms like weakness in muscles, blurry vision, reduced motivation, memory problems for short term, irritability, stiffness in the shoulder and slowed reflexes and responses of extremities, a sudden feeling of anxiety, nervousness, or impatience are also associated with fatigue.

What causes fatigue?

  • Metabolic/Endocrine- Diseases like Cushing’s disease, liver disease, kidney disease, electrolyte abnormalities, diabetes, hypothyroidism and anemia can cause fatigue.
  • Infections- Many infections such as malaria, influenza (flu), HIV infection, cytomegalovirus, tuberculosis, hepatitis and infectious mononucleosis contributes to fatigue.
  • Heart and lung diseases- A lot of pulmonary and cardiac disorders such as pneumonia, asthma, COPD, valvular heart disease, coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure are also leading causes of fatigue.
  • Medications- Some medicines like blood pressure medicines, steroids, antistamines, drug withdrawal medicines and antidepressants can also give rise to fatigue.
  • Vitamin deficiencies- Certain inadequacy of vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron and folic acid can cause fatigue.
  • Psychiatric health- Bereavement, grief, alcohol abuse and depression can also cause fatigue.
  • Other issues- Illnesses such as fibromyalgia, systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and rheumatology contributes to fatigue. Sometimes radiation therapy and chemotherapy can also cause excessive fatigue.


Sometimes, fatigue can be serious and should be diagnosed as soon as possible. The doctor or the healthcare professional usually includes tests like CBC (complete blood count test), electrolytes test, blood sugar test (electrolytes test), thyroid hormone, CPK (illnesses which cause muscle inflammation), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG), CT scans and X-rays.

What is the best treatment for fatigue?

To select suitable treatment for fatigue, primarily the underlying cause of it should be identified. A person taking treatments for other diseases or conditions may cause fatigue such as medications like antibiotics, immunity boosters, vitamin supplements, hormone influencers, etc. Some fatigue can be treated with prescribing iron supplements, medicine for sleep disorders, controlling blood sugar levels, for treating mental health, etc.

Fatigue is one type of symptom itself and it is not a condition or disease that is indicating some other underlying medical complication. There is no single medication or treatment is described or mentioned for it. To treat fatigue, people should change their lifestyle, can try acupuncture, cognitive therapy.

What is the best medicine for fatigue?

There is no specific medication available in the market to treat fatigue, however many medications are resulting in fatigue like symptoms. Some drug therapies like bupropion, sertraline, and other anti-depressant drugs can be used to overcome or reduce the effect of chronic fatigue syndrome and treats sleep, pain and psychological problems. Fatigue is caused by different causes and its symptoms are also varying from one person to another.

It is better to coordinate with a team of health care providers to make a suitable treatment plan accordingly. Other medications that might be prescribed by medical practitioners are anemia medicines, some vitamin supplements, some sleep aids like eszopiclone, lorazepam, zolpidem, etc.

Home remedies for fatigue :

Fatigue can occur due to many reasons like lifestyle-related causes such as lack of sleep, sleep disturbance, consumption of alcohol and drugs, poor diet, lack of regular exercise and sedentary behavior), psychological causes such as depression, anxiety, and stress, grief, etc.

To fight with such fatigue, people should manage stress and include some relaxation techniques, stop consumption of excessive caffeine and alcohol, create a sleep routine, avoid napping in between day time and try to sleep at night time only, check and confirm the current medications about the effect as fatigue, add healthy diet in daily plan, and perform daily any type of physical activity.


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Written ByDr. S.Sagin Raj Diploma in Diabetology,CCRH (certificate in reproductive health),MBBS,F.F.M(family medicine)General Physician
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