Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Experiencing constant tiredness

Feeling tired all the time is a common – no, make that a very common – problem,
and a frequent reason why people visit their GP.

Feeling tired often means that you haven’t had enough sleep or you’ve been
doing too much – and by making you feel tired your body’s telling you to slow
down, rest and take it easy until your ‘batteries are recharged’ again. Usually,
just feeling a bit tired without any other symptoms isn’t a cause for concern,
particularly if you’re not too bothered by it and start to feel better after a
while, rather than getting worse. However, sometimes you may feel that even
when you do get plenty of rest, you still don’t feel much better for it. If this
situation sounds familiar, physical or psychological causes such as those in
the following list may be responsible for your tiredness (I order them starting
with the more common and/or harmless, moving on to relatively rare and/or
more serious causes):

✓ Lifestyle: Having young children, lack of sleep and working long hours
are common lifestyle reasons for feeling tired all the time. Try getting a
break by, for example, organising additional childcare (perhaps a relative
or friend can help) or changing your work patterns.

✓ Medication: Taking certain tablets regularly can make you feel tired.
Common culprits are beta-blockers (which your doctor may have
prescribed because you have high blood pressure or for preventing
migraine or a heart condition), antidepressant medication or drugs
used in the management of epilepsy. Check the information leaflet that
comes with your drug to see whether tiredness is a common side effect
and, if necessary, seek advice from your pharmacist or see your GP for a
review of your medication.

✓ Infections: Colds and viral infections can make you feel tired, as can many
other acute and chronic infections. If you’re not sure what’s going on, you
feel quite unwell or your symptoms don’t settle, consult your GP.

✓ Mental health problems: A number of mental health conditions such as
stress, depression or anxiety, as well as alcohol and drugs, can lead to
tiredness. Check out Part V on mental health problems and consult your
GP for further assessment as appropriate.

✓ Hormone problems: Various hormone abnormalities can lead to tiredness.
Hormonal changes in early pregnancy, for example, cause – sometimes
excessive – tiredness. Diabetes mellitus is another cause, and is
a condition in which you lack the hormone insulin. Diabetes may come
on slowly and make you feel tired to begin with, but you may also show
symptoms such as excessive thirst or passing urine frequently. You may
be able to get a simple blood test for diabetes at your local pharmacy –
otherwise contact your GP surgery.

An underactive thyroid gland (called hypothyroidism) is another
common hormone problem that causes tiredness. Other symptoms of
hypothyroidism include constipation and heavy periods (in women),
as well as feeling cold, developing a hoarse voice or generally lacking
energy. See your GP, who can assess you further and diagnose this and
other conditions with a simple blood test.

. Chronic fatigue syndrome: If you suffer from profound physical and
mental tiredness . for example, you have difficulties concentrating,
word-finding or multi-tasking . and exhaustion (particularly related to
physical activity), you may have chronic fatigue syndrome. This condition
is very different to the usual day-to-day tiredness. See your GP for
further assessment, particularly if youfve been feeling tired for weeks or
even months without any obvious cause.

. Anaemia: In simplified terms, anaemia means elack of bloodf. In women
of childbearing age, anaemia is most commonly due to blood loss
through heavy periods. Anaemia can also be due to insufficient iron
intake, especially in unbalanced vegetarian diets. Even with good iron
intake, however, if your stomach and bowels donft digest food properly
you can have an insufficient uptake of iron and other vitamins, which
can also lead to anaemia. Blood loss through a cause within your bowel,
which may potentially be serious . particularly when youfre older . can
also lead to this condition

If youfre anaemic, in addition to tiredness you may also look pale and
feel short of breath when you exert yourself. Always see your doctor for
further assessment if you think you may be anaemic.
. Chest problems: Various chest problems, including weakness of your
heart muscle (often referred to as heart failure), chronic lung conditions
such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other medical
problems, can cause persistent tiredness. Usually, you also notice other
chest symptoms such as shortness of breath or coughing. Read Chapter
10 on heart and chest problems for further information and see your GP
for further assessment as appropriate.

. Cancer: Tiredness is a common symptom of cancer . but of course this
doesnft mean that you have cancer when you feel tired. Cancer can
affect many parts of your body, and in addition to tiredness youfre also
likely to have symptoms related to the affected area of your body. You
can find more information on how to spot the symptoms and signs of
cancer later in this chapter, in the section eAsking: Can This Be Cancer?f.

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