Feeling tired? Seven medical reasons for fatigue

Long working days and busy social or family lives mean many of us feel shattered at the end of the week, but if you're always tired despite getting a good eight hours' sleep a night, there could be another reason.

Medical reasons for fatigue

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Affecting approximately one in 20 men and post-menopausal women, and even more common amongst women having periods, iron deficiency anaemia is a common cause of fatigue, and 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. Women who have heavy periods or who are pregnant are at greater risk of developing this particular form of anaemia, but the problem can often be solved by taking iron supplements and changing your diet to include iron-rich foods.

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 pass 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. It is not usually a serious condition and can generally be controlled with hormone replacement tablets.

Coeliac disease
An intolerance to gluten, 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. Depending on which type you develop, the condition is controlled either with insulin injections or with a healthy diet and regular monitoring of your blood glucose level.

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, leaving them exhausted the following day. 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. Simple lifestyle changes or breathing apparatus are usually prescribed as treatment.
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. There is no cure for the condition, but recommended treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy or a structured exercise programme designed to gradually increase physical activity.

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.

Have you been diagnosed with any of the above? Was it extreme fatigue that led you to consult a doctor? Leave your comments below...
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