Ten medical causes of tiredness

Medical causes for fatiguePic: Getty Images

With so many Brits juggling family life with long working hours, and in many cases not getting enough shut-eye, feeling tired will be an almost perpetual state for some. Yet fatigue could be a sign of a more serious health problem. Check out these ten medical causes of tiredness to see whether you could be harbouring an underlying problem.

Anaemia affects approximately one in 20 men and post-menopausal women, and is even more common amongst fertile-aged women. Women who have heavy periods or who are pregnant are at greater risk of iron deficiency anaemia, which leaves sufferers feeling washed out and run down. Many feel generally lethargic and lack the energy to do anything, as well as tiring quickly and having a sensation of heavy muscles. A simple blood test will confirm if you have iron deficiency anaemia.

Glandular fever
Most commonly affecting teenagers and young adults, glandular fever causes extreme fatigue that can last well after the illness itself has cleared up. Other symptoms include a high temperature, sore throat and swollen glands. There is no cure for this viral infection, but painkillers can ease the symptoms, and the infection usually passes within two to three weeks. Unfortunately the tiredness can linger on, in some cases for up to six months.

Underactive thyroid
The thyroid gland produces the hormone thyroxine, which controls how much energy the body uses. When the gland is underactive, also known as hypothyroidism, the body's functions slow down, resulting in fatigue, weight gain and muscle aches and pains. Dry skin and hair, sensitivity to the cold and unexplained weight gain are other symptoms to look out for. It affects both men and women, though it is more common in females, and tends to happen more often as we age.

Coeliac disease
The NHS reports that there are 250,000 diagnosed cases of coeliac disease in the UK, but it is thought some 90 per cent of sufferers are unaware of their condition. Tiredness caused by poor nutrition, as well as diarrhoea, bloating, abdominal pain and weight loss, though the symptoms vary greatly, ranging from mild to severe. A blood test can determine whether coeliac disease is causing your symptoms, and they can be controlled by sticking to a gluten free diet.

Exhaustion or fatigue is one of the key symptoms of diabetes, a condition in which the body is unable to control blood sugar levels, either because there is not enough insulin to move glucose from the bloodstream into cells within the body (type 2 diabetes), or because the immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin (type 1 diabetes). Other common symptoms include feeling unusually thirsty, needing to urinate more frequently, and weight loss.

Sleep apnoea
If you regularly wake up from a night's sleep without feeling refreshed, sleep apnoea could the reason. It causes the throat to narrow or close during sleep, interrupting the breathing and making the sufferer to enter a lighter state of sleep, or even wake briefly, frequently during the night. Overweight, middle-aged men are those at the greatest risk, but many sufferers are unaware that they have a problem. If you have been told that you snore badly, it could be a sign of sleep apnoea, and since it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes, it is important to see a doctor if you are displaying the symptoms.

Chronic fatigue syndrome
Otherwise known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), chronic fatigue syndrome causes debilitating tiredness that can go on for long periods of time. The severity of the symptoms does vary, and it usually develops in those in their early 20s to mid-40s. According to the NHS, the fatigue is often described by sufferers as overwhelming, and some report muscle or joint pain, headaches, sore throat, and sensitivity to light or loud noises.

Along with irritability, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and a continuous low mood or sadness, fatigue is a common symptom amongst depression sufferers. Many experience a lack of energy or motivation, and often have to deal with disturbed sleep.

Similar to depression in that it can cause disturbed sleep and consequently fatigue, anxiety that feels constant and uncontrollable, called generalised anxiety disorder or GAD by doctors, affects around one in 20 people in the UK. If you feel constantly on edge or restless, are irritable and have difficulty concentrating, as well as experiencing feelings of fatigue, it could be time to seek help.

Restless leg syndrome
According to the NHS, as many as one in ten people could be affected by restless legs syndrome at some point in their life, though women are twice as likely to develop the condition as men. It commonly occurs in middle age, though symptoms can develop at any age and can vary widely from the mild to the severe. It causes an uncomfortable sensation in the legs, often described as a crawling or creeping sensation in the feet, calves and thighs, and is often worse at night, hence disturbing your sleep.

If you feel fatigued even after a good night's sleep, and are displaying any of other unexplained symptoms, it is essential to visit your GP to get checked out.

Did fatigue lead you to discover you suffered from one of the above? Leave your comments below...