The Women's Journal

Fatigue: When the Snooze Button Won’t Help

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brandywine_Keah_jj12By Dr. Jennifer Keah

Brandywine Family Practice of Exton

As the weather brightens and spring activities begin, you may start to feel more worn out. But when tired doesn’t begin to cover how you’re feeling, fatigue may be a better definition. Fatigue is a lingering, limiting tiredness. Suffers will feel a lack of energy and strength – similar to when you have the flu or another viral infection.

Common Causes and Treatment

Moderate fatigue may be caused by any number of factors – and almost everyone has experienced it at least once. Common causes of fatigue include:

• Dehydration

• Food allergies or intolerance

• Poor eating habits

• Stress

• Excess caffeine

• Inadequate sleep

Fortunately, this type of fatigue can normally be solved with home remedies and simple life-style changes. Solutions for moderate fatigue can include:

• Exercising for twenty minutes several times a week

• Drinking the right amount of fluids

• Improving your diet-cut sodium, sweets; increase whole grains and protein; don’t skip breakfast!

• Getting at least seven hours of sleep

• Reducing the use of alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and other drugs

• Take breaks- for thirty seconds up to 5 minutes, do absolutely nothing

• Meditation

When to See Your Doctor

A good nights rest may relieve most cases of fatigue, but if your fatigue lasts longer than two weeks, it may be time to visit the doctor.  Fatigue is a warning symptom that you may be suffering from a more serious problem such as:

• Anemia • Shift work sleep disorder

• Depression

• Vitamin Deficiency

• Diabetes • Pulmonary Artery hypertension

• Heart Disease

• Fibromyalgia

• Hypothyroidism • Menopause

• Sleep Apnea

• Viral Infection

• Urinary Tract Infection

• Bacterial Infection

Also talk to your doctor if your fatigue occurs with other symptoms like difficulty breathing or unexpected weight fluctuations as this may require more urgent attention. Medications, both over the counter and prescription, can also trigger fatigue, so talk to your physician about alternatives if this is the case.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Most people will be able to make it through their weariness, but if you find yourself struggling for months at a time, you may be dealing with more than common-place fatigue. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) can make even the most ordinary of tasks a struggle. CFS can be characterized by debilitating fatigue – enough to disrupt daily activities – for at least six months. A good nights rest doesn’t provide relief and exercise can make the feeling worse. Those with CFS may also experience chronic pain, headaches, tender lymph nodes, and sore throat. In addition to the physical symptoms, CFS must be accompanied by cognitive impairments such as difficulty concentrating and memory problems. Women are four times more likely than men to develop CFS and while CFS can occur at any age, it is most common in those ages 4o to 59.

Over a million Americans suffer with CFS, though less than 20% of cases are diagnosed. Unfortunately, there is no lab test to specifically detect CFS.  It is also difficult to diagnose as all other causes must be excluded first.  Fibromyalgia, Infectious Mononucleosis, Lyme disease, and a host of other disorders all carry similar symptoms. Your doctor may order blood work along with a mental status evaluation and physical examination to determine whether or not you have CFS.

While there is no cure for CFS, there are ways to manage the condition. Some treatment options include:

• Behavioral therapy- Individual Counseling and/or Support Groups

• Pain Management

•Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies (i.e. acupuncture, melatonin)

• Pharmacologic therapy

• CFS Specific Physical Therapy-mild aerobic exercise

• Sleep Hygiene

Talk with your doctor to discuss the possibility of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Together, you can develop a personalized treatment plan and the best way to get yourself feeling better.

Dr. Jennifer Keah is a board certified family practice physician with Brandywine Family Practice of Exton. She is a member of the medical staff at Brandywine Hospital. To schedule an appointment, call (610) 518-6780 or visit