Do You Feel "More Than Tired"?
Do You Feel "More Than Tired"?
Everyone gets tired from time to time, but if you feel exhausted every day, it may be that you are suffering from fatigue. How do you tell the difference between tiredness and fatigue?
A good first step towards understanding why you are feeling tired is to look at your lifestyle and daily stresses and strains. These might include:
- Lack of exercise1,2,3
- Lack of sleep4
- Too much physical activity5
- Excess caffeine intake6 or excess alcohol intake7
- Illnesses such as colds or flu5
If you are tired for one of these reasons, it is likely that your tiredness will not last very long and that you will feel better after exercising, resting, or getting more sleep.5
However if you are feeling exhausted, and this continues day after day, it could be that you are “more than tired” and are suffering from fatigue. If you are experiencing fatigue, you may feel physically and mentally exhausted and lack energy for a number of days each week, even if you have not been doing any physical activities that are particularly tiring.8 You may also be too exhausted to complete normal daily tasks such as getting dressed or going shopping, and you may often feel too tired to spend time with friends or family. Some people have described fatigue as feeling “listless”, “washed out” or “cranky”.
If you would like to understand whether the level of tiredness that you are feeling is normal or whether you might be fatigued you can take our Fatigue Survey to rate your level of tiredness.
Fatigue is common and is often the first problem that people mention when they visit their doctors.9 It is a complex symptom because it can be caused by many different underlying conditions, such as:
- Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia10
- Anaemia due to other reasons, such as low levels of vitamin B12 or folate11
- Hormonal conditions such as hypothyroidism and diabetes12
- Chronic fatigue syndrome, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)2
- Depression2,13 and sleep problems4
- Iron overload, known as haemochromatosis,14 where too much iron can lead to iron building up in the organs of your body.15
Because there are so many reasons why you may experience fatigue it is important that you talk to your doctor to discuss how you feel in more detail. Your doctor is in the best position to diagnose fatigue and to discuss any possible treatment options with you.
If your fatigue is due to iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia, increasing your iron intake through your diet and, if necessary, through treatment can make you feel much better. This is why it is important to talk to your doctor and to be on the look-out for other signs that you might be iron deficient.
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- 10. Wood MM, Elwood PC. Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia: A community survey. Br J Prev Soc Med. 1966;20:117-121.
- 11. Smith DL. Anemia in the elderly. Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(7):1565-72.
- 12. Nijrolder I, van der Windt D, de Vries H, van der Horst H. Diagnoses during follow-up of patients presenting with fatigue in primary care. CMAJ. 2009;181(10):683-7. doi:10.1503/cmaj.090647.
- 13. Targum SD, Fava M. Fatigue as a Residual Symptom of Depression. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2011;8(10):40-43.
- 14. McDonnell SM, Preston BL, Jewell SA, et al. A survey of 2,851 patients with hemochromatosis: symptoms and response to treatment. Am J Med. 1999;106(6):619-24.
- 15. Schümann K, Elsenhans B, Mäurer a. Iron supplementation. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 1998;12(3):129-40. doi:10.1016/S0946-672X(98)80001-1.