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Fatigue is typically defined as a lack of energy or motivation. The feeling may be mental, physical, or both. While it is not the same as being drowsy, feelings of fatigue may be accompanied by a desire to sleep. Apathy or indifference may also accompany cases of fatigue. These feelings are very common, and in many cases, they are completely normal responses to intense physical and mental activity. In these cases, the feeling is usually alleviated after a good night's sleep or when activity slows down. When fatigue is continuous, however, it is often associated with an underlying disease or disorder.

Causes of Fatigue

The potential causes for fatigue are nearly limitless. It is listed as a symptom of many diseases and disorders, and it can also be brought on in healthy adults by rigorous activity. Normal fatigue is not a cause for concern, but it may become abnormal if it is severe or lasts for an extended period of time. Cases of abnormal fatigue may be caused by metabolic factors, infections, heart or lung conditions, medications, mental health problems, sleep disturbances, and many other things.

Feelings of fatigue may be physical or mental in nature. Many people experience both at the same time. Common symptoms include lack of energy and motivation, difficulty concentrating, trouble starting and finishing tasks, weakness, or a constant feeling of being tired. In more severe cases, fatigue can also cause fainting, dizziness, vertigo, or rapid heartbeat.

Diagnosing Fatigue

When evaluating fatigue, doctors will typically perform a physical examination and take a complete medical history including information relating to the patient's fatigue. In determining whether or not it is the result of normal activity or an underlying condition, doctors typically ask questions regarding how it impacts the patient's day to day life and how they feel throughout the day. Other questions may be asked regarding the patients sleep, eating, and exercise habits as well as any other symptoms they may be experiencing. Based on the medical history and exam, the doctor may need to run additional tests to determine the cause of fatigue. These tests may include x-rays, electrocardiogram, blood tests, urinalysis, or CT scans.

Treating Fatigue

The medical treatment for fatigue depends on the underlying cause. In most cases, treating or managing an underlying disease or condition takes care of the fatigue. Many common causes can be treated with prescription medications or supplements. For example, antidepressants may ease fatigue in patients who are also experiencing other symptoms of depression while doctors may recommend iron supplements to cure the feelings of tiredness associated with anemia. Changes to one's diet and exercise habits can also help with fatigue. Fatigue itself generally does not cause any severe problems, but the prognosis for underlying conditions varies.