Tired All the Time? Here’s When to See a Doctor

If you regularly wake up unrested or even exhausted and feel like you drag through most days, you’re not alone. Only one in seven Americans feel well-rested and refreshed every day of the week, according to a recent survey. In addition to tackling your daily responsibilities, such as taking care of your kids, working all day and keeping your house in order, this time of year is also when you might be extra exhausted due to Seasonal Affective Disorder. The short days and lack of sunlight can have a big effect on your energy levels and make you even more tired than usual.

Because sleep deprivation and exhaustion are common, it can be tough to know when your lack of sleep is normal and when it’s something you should talk to your doctor about.

The first step is to look at your lifestyle. Factors such as drinking alcohol, not sleeping enough, drinking caffeine, stress, inactivity, a poor diet, lack of vitamin D and even certain medications such as cough and cold medicines can impact your energy levels. If you think one of those may be to blame, try making some lifestyle changes like cutting back on afternoon caffeine or going on a lunchtime walk to boost your energy.

If, after two to three weeks of better habits, you don’t see a change, it may be time to see a doctor. Certain medical conditions can lead to severe exhaustion, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes (types one and two)
  • Obesity
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Emphysema
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

There is one other condition that might be making you so exhausted: chronic fatigue syndrome. This complicated disorder is extreme fatigue that can’t be explained by any other underlying medical condition, like the ones above. Unfortunately, the cause is unknown and there’s no quick test that can confirm a diagnosis. In addition to utter exhaustion, symptoms include loss of memory or concentration, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes in neck or armpits, unexplained muscle pain and more. If it turns out you have chronic fatigue syndrome, your doctor will be able to come up with a treatment plan for you that might involve medication or therapy.

It’s worth noting that if your fatigue is ever accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular or fast heartbeat or a feeling that you might pass out, you should seek immediate care. And for more information and tips on dealing with exhaustion, check out these blogs:

Photo Credit: Kyle Adams

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