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Here’s Why You Should Never Underestimate Fatigue

Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

Table of Contents

lady experiencing fatigue at work

Are you neglecting fatigue most of the time? If your answer is yes, you are one of the many Americans who have normalized exhaustion tolerance primarily related to work.  

Fatigue goes beyond tiredness. It is an unshakeable feeling of weariness and loss of energy affecting both your physical and mental health. More often than not, fatigue is acquired from too much exertion at work.

However, recent data from the CDC suggests that fatigue goes beyond the workplace at a drastic pace. This is primarily associated with the increasing responsibilities at home during non-work hours.

Although fatigue is often considered a natural response of the body, it doesn’t erase the fact that it can be borderline dangerous when taken for granted. Not only does it decrease your mental capacity and performance, but it also diminishes your health and motor skills.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatigue, which leads to drowsy driving, is one of the prevalent causes of road accidents and crashes.

Nonetheless, understanding the critical effects of fatigue and how to resolve them correctly can save your health and your life.

What Is Fatigue?

Fatigue is described as the feeling of extreme tiredness or lack of energy. Although it affects anyone, adults are more prone to fatigue due to work and home life demands.

Generally, fatigue isn’t considered as serious as other conditions. In fact, it is widely recognized as a typical occurrence that quickly comes and goes. But different levels of fatigue may indicate underlying health conditions.

What Is the Difference Between Tiredness and Fatigue?

Fatigue and tiredness are sometimes used interchangeably. But they are pretty different from one another.

Simply put, the main difference between tiredness and fatigue is the degree and length of energy loss.

Tiredness is a typical response to an activity that requires physical or mental force. It is relatively brief and can be relieved by sleep and cooling down.

On the other hand, Fatigue is excessive loss of energy or exhaustion due to prolonged exertion. It is far more persistent and can frequently recur compared to tiredness.

Often, people who are exhausted or fatigued are observed to have physical and behavioral changes. For example, apathy or indifference can be noted to those who have worked for hours without getting enough rest.

Furthermore, drowsiness and lack of motivation are common characteristics of tiredness and fatigue. But it is significantly magnified with the latter. Moreover, fatigue is not easily resolved by dozing off for a few hours.

Treatment for fatigue ranges from several adjustments to your lifestyle to medication for health conditions triggering the condition.    

Types of Fatigue

Fatigue can be classified based on its primary cause and the level of sleep restriction involved.

For example, there are five types of fatigue in reference to how they are developed.

1.       Physical fatigue

Doing strenuous activities can take a toll on your body. Hence, it leads to a feeling of weakness or malaise.

2.       Mental fatigue

When you use your mental energy to solve problems or answer questions, it’s only a matter of time until your thinking capacity begins to falter.

3.       Emotional fatigue

This type of extreme exhaustion can develop with depression, frustration, anger, or any negative emotions. It is physically and mentally draining. 

4.       Chronic illness fatigue

Fatigue is a symptom of many diseases. Therefore, if you’re not exerting too much effort and still have sufficient sleep, but you’re still awfully tired, it could be an indicator of a health condition. 

5.       Social fatigue

This can occur when you consistently get anxious when dealing with people. Whether you’re constantly meeting clients, receiving complaints, or troubleshooting for other people, your energy can drop rapidly without proper rest.

On the other hand, fatigue can also be categorized based on the amount of sleep around it.

1.   Cumulative fatigue: With this type of fatigue, mild sleep deprivation is repeated for more than two days.

2.   Circadian fatigue: Circadian fatigue is caused by the interruption in the circadian rhythm or the biological clock. This leads to sleep disorders and imbalances in the body.

3.   Transient fatigue: This type of fatigue is caused by a lack of sleep within a day or two.

What Happens to Your Body When You Are Fatigued?

man experiencing fatigue at work

Fatigue can lead your body to a feeling of physical weakness. Energy is depleted, so you enter a state of forced decline.

Your cognitive function is also greatly affected as your cardiovascular system struggles to deliver oxygen to the brain. This leads to problems with your muscle coordination, focus, and stimulation.

Moreover, you will experience the following symptoms of fatigue:

  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Sore muscles
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Blurry vision
  • Memory problems

What Does It Mean It Be Diagnosed With Fatigue?

Fatigue is considered a symptom instead of a disease or disorder. So, if you are diagnosed with fatigue, it could lead to a further diagnosis of an underlying health condition. Moreover, other symptoms are going to be examined.

Nonetheless, treatment for fatigue varies depending on the severity of the condition and how it plays a role in the development of the uncovered disease or disorder.

Lifestyle changes are recommended for those who are suffering from frequent fatigue. For example, longer sleep and a change in diet can improve your energy usage. 

Likewise, exercise and hydration can protect you against chemical imbalances in your body.

What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

It’s easy to think that nothing gets worse than fatigue on the scale of exhaustion. But that’s not the case. 

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a more complicated and long-term version of fatigue. Unlike fatigue that often lasts for days or weeks, CFS can remain for months. It generally affects almost all your body systems.

The extreme weakness that comes with CFS will render you unproductive and unable to perform any of your daily routines. What’s even worse is that the feeling of intense exhaustion cannot be relieved by mere sleep or rest.

In the US, about 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans suffer from CFS, as mentioned by the CDC and reported by the Institute of Medicine. However, a majority of these cases remain undiagnosed. 

Naturally, this has something to do with how adults normalize fatigue. But, likewise, indicators of CFS are tightly similar to other health conditions. Thus, it is a challenge to isolate or differentiate them.

Nevertheless, here are some of the symptoms of CFS:

  • Lack of sleep (insomnia)
  • Sore throat
  • Poor mental functions
  • Feeling sick
  • Heart palpitations
  • Blurry vision

What Are the Main Causes of Fatigue?

Fatigue does not manifest out of anywhere. Instead, it has several triggers primarily coming from your external environment. Furthermore, it is also a result of several activities or inactivity.

As fatigue is associated with many health issues, it is essential to identify what causes this condition.

Once the culprit is identified, a swift response should be made. But if the condition does not improve, it is best to consult your doctor and take the necessary lab tests to find out the problem.

Here are factors that can trigger fatigue.

  • Continuous physical exertion
  • Sleep deprivation and disorders
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Alcohol dependency
  • Certain medications
  • Drug use
  • Poor diet
  • Food allergies
  • Depression
  • Caffeine overload
  • Dehydration
  • Infection
  • Underlying medical conditions

Health Conditions Associated With Fatigue

lady dealing with fatigue

If you look closely into the symptoms of many infections and diseases, fatigue frequently appears on the list.

It is quite expected as fatigue is a manifestation that your immune system is working. So in a way, it’s a positive indicator.

However, chronic fatigue is never good news. It could suggest the following diseases and disorders:

  • Anemia
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Arthritis
  • Autoimmune Disorders
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • COVID-19
  • Diabetes
  • Emphysema
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart Disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Infections (HIV, mononucleosis, STDs)
  • Kidney Disease
  • Liver Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis 

Since fatigue can suggest different types of health issues, it is best to undergo a proper diagnosis before making several assumptions. 

Take note of other irregularities or symptoms and take the recommended laboratory tests by your doctor.

Can a Blood Test Show Fatigue?

Yes, the right blood test can confirm fatigue and determine its cause. 

For example, here at Personalabs, you can avail yourself of the Fatigue Profile Blood Test. This lab test evaluates the levels of key hormones and substances related to potential metabolic, hematologic, and infectious causes of fatigue.

When you should take a blood test for your fatigue depends on its degree and frequency. Furthermore, your doctor will assess how several external factors could have affected its development. 

So, if the physical examination and preliminary assessment are not enough, the condition will definitely call for a blood test. 

Nonetheless, a fatigue blood test is crucial as it provides a more conclusive diagnosis.

The Bottom Line

Neglecting fatigue brings nothing but aggravated health issues. If you’re feeling endlessly tired, the first thing you need to do is hit the bed. Get some rest and give yourself a break. After all, working all the time until you hit your limits is one of the worse things you can do to your body.

Furthermore, to avoid fatigue at work or even in your home, do relaxing activities or even a short nap in between your daily activities.

Overall, when fatigue becomes chronic, consult your doctor and get the proper tests. While work is an essential part of your life, it shouldn’t eclipse your well-being because nothing goes above your health and wellness. 

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