Fatigue is an extremely common symptom seen in General Practice. Feeling tired is a normal part of life, but it can also be a symptom of illness. There are numerous causes of tiredness including poor sleep, dehydration and stress as well as medical causes. The symptoms of ‘tired all the time’ (TATT), can be difficult to manage, however seeing your doctor can help rule out more serious conditions. Here are a few common conditions seen in General Practice that are known to cause tiredness or fatigue.
Anaemia - one of the most common reasons for feeling constantly run down is iron deficiency anaemia. Women with heavy periods are prone to anaemia, this can be easily confirmed on a blood test and treated with iron tablets. Anaemia may also occur in pregnancy. Anaemia in men or post-menopausal women is more likely to be caused by other disorders such as intestinal bleeding due to stomach ulcers, colitis or possibly bowel cancer.
Hypothyroidism - an underactive thyroid is when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone (thyroxine) and this slows down metabolism, leading to tiredness, weight gain, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation and many other symptoms. A blood test can diagnose an underactive thyroid.
Diabetes - is a metabolic disorder where there is a high level of sugar in the blood for prolonged periods of time. This can lead to tiredness, excessive thirst and frequent urination. There is a risk of complications with diabetes especially if left untreated, such as cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.
Glandular Fever - is a common viral condition that usually affects teenagers and young adults. Symptoms include fever, sore throat and swollen glands. A blood test for Epstein- Barr virus can be performed to diagnose glandular fever. Most people recover in 2-3 weeks, but the tiredness symptoms may linger for several weeks or months.
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) - is a breathing problem that occurs whilst asleep. The throat muscles intermittently relax and the throat narrows interrupting normal breathing. A noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnoea is snoring, awakening abruptly gasping or choking, observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep and daytime sleepiness. OSA can have a significant impact on quality of life as well increasing the risk of problems such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Depression and Anxiety - mood disorders can make you feel sad and anxious as well as disrupting sleep, causing difficulty in falling asleep and early morning wakening. Feeling drained of energy and tiredness are common symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Vitamin B12 and Folate deficiency - these vitamins help perform important functions in the body including keeping the nervous system healthy. Deficiency can lead to symptoms such as extreme tiredness, sore tongue, mouth ulcers and pins and needles. It is important for these deficiencies to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.
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