The reason why doctors find it so hard to identify its cause is that fatigue, to a degree, is normal. If you work hard physically, you are pretty likely to get tired. If you are unable to sleep well due to some lifestyle issues like working in shifts, you may also feel fatigued. Sometimes people with mental stress may complain about fatigue.
Nonetheless, a constant and high degree of fatigue that interferes with daily life affects mood and prevents a person from enjoying life to the fullest must not be neglected. More often, fatigue is a sign of something severe and yet undiagnosed health condition. Moreover, it often indicates some chronic health issues that, if not managed well, may cause significant health problems in the future.
Common causes of fatigue
- Poor sleep hygiene is among the leading cause of fatigue, as people are not sleeping well due to poor sleep hygiene like using gadgets, watching television, too much noise in the bedroom, sub-optimal temperature, uncomfortable bedding, and many more.
- Excessive caffeine intake – in the form of high coffee consumption, energy drinks, pre-workout supplements, weight loss supplements, and more.
- Lack of regular exercise – has multiple effects like metabolic disorders, loss of lean mass, changes in circadian rhythm, and more.
- Alcohol consumption – changes brain functioning, wave pattern, mood, thinking ability, and thus causing changes in sleep patterns. It also has many ill effects on physical health.
- Physical exertion – some people have to work on physically demanding tasks causing fatigue.
- Poor diet – generally means consuming poor-quality fats, low protein intake, consuming many carbs, and a diet low in micronutrients.
- Lack of sleep – generally means sleeping for less than 7 hours a day.
- Thyroid issues – causing changes in metabolic rate.
- Anaemia – and this insufficient oxygen supply to vital organs and the brain.
- Nutritional deficiencies – like those of vitamins and minerals.
- Sleep disorders
- Eating disorders
- Cancer and related pain
- Congestive heart failure
- Mood disorders like anxiety or depression
- High level of mental stress
How would doctors diagnose fatigue?
As one can see, fatigue can occur due to many reasons. However, it is worth understanding that fatigue has a bidirectional association with various chronic ailments. For example, depression may cause fatigue, and fatigue may worsen depression. Hence a need to break this vicious cycle.
Chronic fatigue may cause low-grade inflammation and considerably increase the risk of various chronic health conditions. It is one of the less recognized causes of chronic health issues. Additionally, in many cases, it could be the primary sign of some severe health issues. Fatigue may be the only early sign of severe health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and even dementia.
It only highlights the importance of finding the root cause of fatigue. Doctors would often need to carry out extensive health screening to identify the cause. Since fatigue may be associated with many conditions, no single test or screening panel can help determine its cause.
Doctors would try to exclude physical ailments first. If they could not find any physical disease or infection, then they would look into other causes like lifestyle factors and psychological issues. Additionally, they might also try to exclude poorly understood conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.