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Underlying Causes of Tiredness

Persistent fatigue may be an indicator of health issues

Health Issues that Can Make You Tired

Jamie Grill/Getty Images

You may need more than a cup of coffee to deal with ongoing sleepiness.

Everyone has a groggy day occasionally, especially if you didn't sleep well or have been unusually busy. But if you are fatigued for more than a week and find yourself missing work or social outings due to sleepiness, there could be an underlying medical reason.



Here are five possible triggers to watch for if you feel consistently tired:

Illness and Treatments

Illnesses — and the medications and treatments used for them — can cause fatigue in patients, especially among older people. Those with rheumatoid arthritis, a painful condition in the joints, often complain of fatigue, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Cancer patients also may feel exhausted from the disease and treatments — or both. Anemia or irregular thyroid activity also can lead to fatigue. 

Seasonal Allergies

In addition to causing irritating runny noses, itchy eyes and coughing, allergies launch your immune system into overdrive to fight off allergens. As a result, you may feel more tired, nurse practitioner Jenepher Piper tells Self.com. 

Sleep Apnea

This potentially dangerous sleep disorder causes your breathing to stop and start at night, which leads to poor quality sleep. The condition leaves people not only chronically tired but also at greater risk for diabetes, stroke, heart disease and memory loss. Sleep apnea tests are available in labs and through home kits, and there are effective treatments, including Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices.

Depression

The hopelessness caused by depression can drain your energy, clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark tells Self. Depression also can lead to changes in your sleep patterns that cause fatigue. Watch out for tiredness combined with sadness, low self-esteem, changes in appetite and difficulty concentrating.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

NIA identifies Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) as fatigue that lasts six months or longer and is not related to other diseases or conditions. CFS symptoms include muscle pain, memory problems, headaches and tender lymph nodes.

There also are lifestyle causes of fatigue. These include consuming too much caffeine (especially late in the day), drinking too much alcohol, and eating too much junk food and not enough nutritious foods, according to NIA. 

If you have been tired for several weeks, it may be time to talk with your doctor. Diagnostic procedures include a physical exam, lab tests and questions about your sleep, daily activities, appetite and exercise. Treatments may involve medications to target underlying health problems or recommendations for changes to your diet and exercise programs.

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