Medically reviewed by:
Dr Dan Bunstone - Medical Officer
What is fatigue?
Fatigue is the word used to describe a general lack of energy - this can be both physical and mental. It is normal to feel a little tired from time-to-time, but if it is constant, it may be a sign of an underlying condition.
If you have no motivation, and your fatigue is affecting your day-to-day life, it is important that you speak to a doctor. Likewise, if you’re struggling with fatigue, and you have tried to rest and recuperate, you may wish to seek medical advice to try and find out if anything is causing it - often a specific cause isn’t found.
There are many causes of fatigue and everyone is different. With Push Doctor, you can speak to a GP from the comfort of your own home. Our doctors will listen to your symptoms, and ask about your medical history and lifestyle to try and understand the cause of your fatigue.
The common symptoms of fatigue will depend on what’s causing it. However, common things to look out for include:
- Constantly feeling tired and having low energy
- A low mood
- High stress levels
- Mental fatigue, like you can’t be bothered any more
If you feel that the symptoms you are experiencing are out of the ordinary, you should speak to a doctor.
There are certain lifestyle choices or things that are going on in your life that can cause fatigue. These can include:
- Doing too much or too little exercise
- Sleep problems - such as if you don’t sleep through the night, or work shifts
- Too much caffeine
- Poor diet
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Certain medications
- Boredom, where your mind is not working hard enough
If you feel like one of these is causing your fatigue, try to make small and simple changes to see if that makes a difference in your energy levels. For example, you may be doing too much exercise, and not getting enough rest or recovery time. Or you may be drinking too much caffeine or alcohol. Try cutting back to see if it helps.
Sometimes, minor illnesses may make you feel tired or run down, like a cold or flu. Once this has passed, you should start feeling normal again.
Some more serious health conditions can cause chronic fatigue. These include:
Chronic fatigue syndrome
ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), or chronic fatigue syndrome can cause a disabling, long-term tiredness. Other symptoms include muscle pain and sleep problems. Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome will be tailored to you as an individual. It may involve a combination of medication, therapy or lifestyle changes.
This condition makes the throat narrow or close when sleeping, interrupting your breathing. People with sleep apnoea tend to snore badly and oxygen levels in the blood may drop. The condition causes you to not get restful sleep, leading to exhaustion the next day.
This type of food intolerance will cause you to react badly when you eat foods that contain gluten. If you are suffering from fatigue and have issues when consuming gluten, a doctor will be able to do a blood test to see if you have coeliac disease.
An iron deficiency can lead to anaemia and mean that you feel run down. If you experience fatigue during pregnancy, or you have heavy periods, it could also be due to anaemia. A low iron level in itself is often identified as a cause of fatigue.
One of the main symptoms of both type one and type two diabetes is feeling very tired. Diabetes is caused by too much sugar in the blood and this can cause you to feel thirsty, go to the toilet a lot and lose weight. A blood test can be used to check if you have this long-term condition.
The thyroid gland regulates the thyroxine hormone in the body. An underactive thyroid gland will produce too little, making you feel tired. You may also have aching muscles and gain weight. Fatigue in women over 60 can often be attributed to this condition.
Mental health conditions
Anxiety, depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can all cause significant fatigue. Speaking to a doctor can help you get to the root cause of your mental health issue, so you can start to feel better.
When to see a doctor
If you believe you may have an underlying condition that’s causing your fatigue, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Our GPs speak to people with tiredness and fatigue all the time and are highly skilled in working out potential causes of fatigue.
At Push Doctor, you can see a GP online, on any device, from home, work or even on the go. They will listen to your symptoms, ask questions to rule out other possible causes and suggest the right treatment to get you back up on your feet as quickly as possible.
They will ask questions about the duration of fatigue and any other symptoms you may have. As there are so many causes of fatigue, they will initially try to work out if there is anything serious underlying your symptoms. They may ask you some wide ranging questions, from your work and exercise to your periods or your bowels. Your family history may be relevant here too. Blood tests are often very important in this scenario and the doctor may refer you for blood tests, or other kinds of tests, to find out if there is a medical condition giving you fatigue.
If the GP doesn’t suspect an underlying medical condition, then they can recommend some lifestyle changes that will help. Book an appointment today to speak to a doctor about your symptoms.
How we can help
You can see a GP about your fatigue at a time that suits you. Our doctors are available from 7 days a week and can offer you the advice, diagnosis and treatment you may need. They can also refer you to a specialist for further tests or treatment.