'Why Am I so Tired?' Here's What to Look out For

A busy lifestyle is often the culprit of fatigue. Yet, while this may be the guilty party a lot of the time, it's important not to always blame your tiredness on your hectic lifestyle. Before taking a more serious precaution, give yourself about two to three weeks to make some lifestyle changes. This would include getting more sleep, cutting back on your social calendar, eating more wholesome foods, drinking more fluids and cutting back on caffeine and alcohol.
If after you've made these changes you still feel the symptoms associated with fatigue, then it is essential that you seek medical help. Excess exhaustion could be the sign of a more serious medical condition that can be treated. Below are some common problems that you should be aware of:
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1. Anemia
Fatigue caused by anemia is a result of a lack of red blood cells, which bring oxygen from your lungs to your tissues and cells. Other symptoms also include weakness and shortness of breath. Anemia may be caused by an iron or vitamin deficiency, blood loss, internal bleeding or a chronic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer or kidney failure. Women of childbearing age are especially susceptible to iron-deficiency anemia due to blood loss during menstruation, as well as the body's need for extra iron during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 
Symptoms: Feeling tired all the time, alongside extreme weakness, difficulty sleeping, lack of concentration, rapid heartbeat, chest pains and headache. Simple exercises as well as climbing the stairs or walking short distances can also cause fatigue.
What to do: A thorough evaluation includes a physical exam and blood tests which would include a complete blood count (CBC), checking the levels of red blood cells. It is also a standard procedure to check the stool for blood loss. 
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If your thyroid is not functioning as it should, every day activities will make you feel exhausted. The thyroid gland, found in the front of the neck, produces hormones that control your metabolism. If your gland is producing too much thyroid hormone, known as hyperthyroidism, your metabolism speeds up. If it is producing too little, known as hypothyroidism, your metabolism slows down.
Symptoms: Hyperthyroidism causes muscle fatigue and weakness, which you are likely to notice in your thighs first. You may also find exercises such as riding a bike or climbing stairs to become difficult. Unexplained weight loss is another symptom, as is feeling warm all the time, increased heart rate, shorter and less frequent menstrual flows and increased thirst. Hyperthyroidism is most common among women in their 20s and 30s, but it may occur in older women and men too. Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is defined by an  inability to concentrate, and muscle soreness, even with minor activity. Other symptoms include weight gain due to water retention, feeling cold (even in warm weather), heavier and more frequent menstrual flows and constipation.  Hypothyroidism is most common in women over the age of 50. Statistics show that as many as 10% of women past the age of 50 will have at least mild hypothyroidism. 
What to do: Thyroid disease can be detected with a blood test. Thyroid disorders are treatable so if you do feel tired or muscle weakness, you should get your blood test done. 
3. Diabetes
More than a million people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each year - but there are many more who are unaware that they have it. Sugar, otherwise known as glucose, is the fuel that keeps your body going. But among people with type 2 diabetes, this tends to be troublesome as they are unable to use glucose properly causing it to build up in the blood. Consequently, without having enough energy to keep the body running smoothly, people with diabetes often notice fatigue as one of the first warning signs. 
Symptoms: Tiredness, excessive thirst, frequent urination, hunger, weight loss, irritability, yeast infections and blurred vision. 
What to do: Testing for diabetes includes the fasting plasma glucose test, which measures your blood glucose level after fasting for 8 hours and the oral glucose tolerance test where blood is drawn twice, just before drinking a glucose syrup and then, 2 hours later. 
4. Depression
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Depression is a major illness that affects the way we sleep, eat and feel about ourselves and others. Without treatment, depression may last for weeks, possibly months or even years.
Symptoms: Depression is not experienced in the same way, but common symptoms include decreased energy, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, problems with memory and concentration, feeling of hopelessness, worthlessness and negativity. 
What to do: Unlike other diseases on the list, there is no blood test for depression. Instead, your doctor will likely ask you a series of questions. Furthermore, if you experience five or more of these symptoms below for more than two weeks, or if they interfere with your life than you need to see a doctor or a mental health professional: fatigue or loss of energy, sleeping too little or too much, a persistent sad, anxious or empty mood, reduced appetite and weight loss, increased appetite and weight gain, loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed, restlessness or irritability, persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment such as headaches, chronic pain or constipation, difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions, feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless, thoughts of death or suicide. 
5. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is not always easy to diagnose early. Though there are some subtle clues that you can look out for. It tends to happen when your immune system turns against itself and attacks healthy joint tissues, at times, resulting in irreversible damage to the bone and cartilage. 
Symptoms: Symptoms such as fatigue, low energy, loss of appetite and joint pain are shared by other health conditions including other forms of arthritis such as fibromyalgia and lupus. Anemia and thyroid disorders are also common in people with RA. Other symptoms to look out for are morning stiffness in and around the joint that lasts for at least an hour before improvement, three joint areas with simultaneous soft tissue swelling or fluid, at least one joint area swollen in a wrist, knuckle or the middle joint of a finger, lumps of tissue under the skin and bone erosion in the wrist or hand joints, detected by x-ray. 
What to do: A thorough physical exam is usually given by a rheumatologist. There is also a test for the presence of rheumatoid factor, an antibody found in the blood. Statistics show that about 80% of people with RA test positive for this antibody. Still, the test is not conclusive. 
6. Chronic Fatigue
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A baffling condition that tends to come on quickly. People who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome feel too tired to carry on with their normal activities and are easily exhausted with little exertion. 
The symptoms: Other signs include headache, muscle and joint pain, weakness, tender lymph nodes and an inability to concentrate. The cause however, is unknown.
What to do: No tests can determine chronic fatigue syndrome. Rather, your doctor must rule out other conditions with similar symptoms such as multiple sclerosis and lupus before making the diagnosis.
7. Sleep Apnea
This sleep-disrupting problem occurs when you wake up feeling tired no matter how much rest you think you got. Sleep apnea is characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type where the upper airway closes or collapses for a few seconds. This in turn alerts your brain to wake you up, so that you may breathe again. Someone with obstructive sleep apnea may stop breathing dozens or even hundreds of times a night.
Symptoms: Sleep apnea is signaled by snoring, and is generally followed by tiredness the next day. It is important that you get it checked out as sleep apnea can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and a stroke. 
What to do: Testing for sleep apnea involves an overnight stay at a sleep clinic where you will undergo a polysomnogram - a painless test that will monitor your sleep patterns, breathing changes and brain activity. 
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