What is fatigue? If you’re tired and even lethargic a lot of the time, you may be feeling it. Everyone gets tired from time to time. Maybe you’re under stress or have had a bad night of sleep. But when is fatigue normal and when does it become a medical problem?
Fatigue is your body’s natural way of slowing you down so that you can get the rest you need. When you’ve been mentally, emotionally, or physically stressed your body needs time to recover, and it does that by making you feel like stopping in your tracks.
Fatigue means having very little energy for mental or physical tasks. When you feel fatigued, you’re not motivated to get things done. You may actually feel irritable and even apathetic about doing anything.
If you feel that way for a day or two after a major event in your life, there’s not much to worry about. This is usually taken care of with a day or two of rest. For example, if you go through a major life change such as marriage, divorce, death in the family, or a big move, you need to rest.
However, if you feel fatigued frequently and you can’t pinpoint a reason why you would feel that way, you’ll probably want to seek some advice from a healthcare provider. Chronic fatigue can signal that there’s a larger underlying problem.
You’ll want to see someone if you’ve experienced fatigue for six months or more even if you have no other symptoms or problems to speak of. If fatigue can’t be relieved by rest and is getting in the way of you performing your daily activities, it’s enough cause for concern.
But if you have fatigue combined with other symptoms, you’ll want to see a healthcare provider sooner. For example, if you’re experiencing fatigue combined with headaches, joint or muscle pain, or swollen glands, it could signal something that needs to be treated.
Some common underlying causes of fatigue include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, or an infection. You may also have problems with fatigue if you have sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
The good news is that most of the time, you can determine the underlying cause of fatigue and then get back to your normal daily activities. In the cases of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, you may have to change your lifestyle and start a healthcare regimen, but you can have relief.
Many people refuse to seek treatment because they’re afraid of what they may find out. But the truth is you need not be afraid. When you speak with your healthcare provider, you may be surprised that what is fatigue could actually be something treatable.
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