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 increases my risk for fatigue?
- Health conditions such as anemia, thyroid problems, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- An infection or a sleep disorder
- Depression, anxiety, or stress
- Medicines such as beta-blockers, antihistamines, or antidepressants
- Lack of proper nutrition
How is the cause of fatigue diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your sleep habits, appetite, activities, stress level, and exercise. He or she will ask about your medical history and what medicines you take. You may also need any of the following:
- Blood tests are used to check for infection, diabetes, and other illnesses. These tests also show how well your thyroid, liver, kidneys, and other organs are working.
- Urine tests will 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 fatigue:
- Keep a fatigue diary. Include anything that makes you feel more tired or less tired. Bring the diary with you to follow-up visits with your provider.
- Exercise as directed. Exercise can help you feel more alert. Exercise can also help you manage stress or relieve depression. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. Limit naps to 1 hour each day. A nap can improve fatigue, but a long nap may make it harder to go to sleep at night.
- Plan and limit your activities. Limit the number of activities such as shopping and cleaning you do each day. If possible, try to spread out your trips throughout the week. Plan ahead so you are not rushing to get something done. Only do activities that you have the energy to complete. Take breaks between activities. Ask for help if you need it. Another person may be able to drive you or help with daily activities.
- 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 our 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 urine or 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.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.