- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Feeling Tired? Don’t ignore this common symptom
Don’t ignore this common symptom, as it can be a sign of something which needs treating.
January can be low point in many people’s year. The party season has come and gone, we are fed up with cold, dismal days and it’s often difficult to summon up our usual energy and enthusiasm. But unusual, recent or prolonged tiredness can be sign of ill health, so you should discuss this with your GP.
If your doctor can identify a medical cause, treatment may make you feel a lot better, but if it turn out that you are simply too busy, busy, busy, you may need to adjust your lifestyle.
Diabetes (raised blood sugar levels, which may also lead to frequent trips to the loo to pee, weight loss or increased thirst) is a common cause of fatigue, and can be treated with changes to your diet, taking tablets or, for Type 1 diabetes, insulin.
Other causes of fatigue include diseases of the heart, liver and kidney, and fibromyalgia, with which you will experience widespread body pain. It’s very common to feel exhausted and wiped out for a while after viral infections, such as glandular fever. This usually improves with rest and time, although it occasionally leads on to chronic fatigue syndrome.
Many prescription drugs list tiredness as a side effect so read the leaflet or ask your GP or pharmacist. And, of course, lowered energy levels around the time of the menopause are quite common – particularly if you suffer from night sweets. HRT (hormone replacement therapy) can often, but not always, be a “magic” solution.
We often assume we have anemia if we feel tired. A low blood count means your “thinner” blood has to work harder – as well as fatigue, you may have breathlessness or palpitations. You may be lacking in iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid ( or unable to absorb them from meat, eggs. Wholegrains, pulses and green leafy vegetables); you will need tests, then supplements. Other signs of possible anemia are indigestion, heavy periods or blood with your stools.
An over-or under-active thyroid gland (in your neck) can also make you feel tired, but both conditions can be treated with medication. If your thyroid produces too much thyroxine hormone, your body speeds up (you may notice palpitations, tremor, diarrhoea and weight loss). Too little slows you down, so you become anaemia, gain weight and feel the cold.
We often say we are “drained” or “worn out” by stress, as coping with the strain uses a lot of physical and mental energy. Alcohol may work as quick pick-me-up but can wake up in he small hours and make you feel sluggish and achey next day.
Anxiety, depression and other psychiatric illnesses can also makes us feel exhausted and, like stress, can disturb our sleep so that we have difficulty falling asleep of find that we wake up early or repeatedly in the night.
Your GP may suggest lifestyle changes, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or antidepressant medication. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – tiredness and low mood linked to low daylight levels) is common at this time of year. A natural daylight lamp may help.
Tests you may need
Blood tests can check for iron, B12 and folic acid levels, anemia, diabetes, thyroid, liver and kidney disease and other conditions.
If your tiredness is linked to specific symptoms, you may need other tests such as X-rays, scans a heart tracing (ECG) or telescope examinations of the stomach, bowel, womb or lungs.
6 ways to Boost Energy Levels
- Make sure you get enough rest and sleep. Wind down before bedtime, and go to bed earlier – or have 40 winks during the day if it helps.
- Eat a balanced diet with lots of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Don’t use sugary snacks as a quick fix – energy levels soon fall after a sugar rush.
- Take regular exercise – it makes you feel less tired, even when you don’t feel up to doing it.
- Build some me-time into each day-shut the door and turn off your phone.
- Meditating for just 10 minutes can recharge your batteries.