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How Tired Is Too Tired?

Do you feel like you're always tired? Are you having trouble staying awake during prime time sitcoms? Most of us know what it's like to be tired, especially when we have a cold, flu, or some other viral infection. But when you suffer from a constant lack of energy and ongoing fatigue, it may be time to check with your doctor.

Fatigue is a lingering tiredness that is constant and limiting. With fatigue, you have unexplained, persistent, and relapsing exhaustion. It's similar to how you feel when you have the flu or have missed a lot of sleep. If you have chronic fatigue, you may wake in the morning feeling as though you've not slept. Or you may be unable to function at work or be productive at home. You may be too exhausted even to manage your daily affairs.

In most cases, there's a reason for the fatigue. It might be allergic rhinitis, anemia, depression, fibromyalgia, or some other health condition. If that's the case, then the long-term outlook is good. WebMD looks at some of the most common causes of fatigue and how they are resolved.

Allergies, Hay Fever, and Fatigue

Symptoms: Fatigue, headache, nasal congestion, and drainage

Allergic rhinitis is a common cause of chronic fatigue. But allergic rhinitis often can be easily treated and self-managed. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will assess your symptoms. The doctor will also determine through a detailed history or testing whether your allergies are triggered by pollens, insects (dust mites or cockroaches), animal dander, molds and mildew, weather changes, or something else.

One way to reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis -- including fatigue -- is to take steps to avoid the offending allergen. In addition, proper medication can help with symptoms. Drugs that might help include:

  • topical nasal steroids
  • non-drowsy oral antihistamines
  • topical nasal antihistamines
  • leukotriene modifiers
  • mast cell stabilizers

 

Allergy shots -- immunotherapy -- may help in severe cases. This treatment involves weekly shots of increasingly higher solutions of the offending allergens. Allergy shots take time to be effective and are usually administered over a period of three to five years.

Anemia and Fatigue

Symptoms: Fatigue, dizziness, feeling cold, irritability

Anemia is the most common blood condition in the U.S. It affects about 3.5 million Americans. For women in their childbearing years, anemia is a common cause of fatigue. This is especially true for women who have heavy menstrual cycles, uterine fibroid tumors, or uterine polyps.

Anemia, a condition in which red blood cell production is decreased, can also be the result of hemorrhoids or GI problems such as ulcers, or cancer. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin can also lead to GI problems and bleeding. Other causes of anemia include a deficiency of iron, folic acid, or vitamin B12. Chronic diseases such as diabetes or kidney disease can also cause anemia.

To confirm a diagnosis of anemia, your doctor will give you a blood test. If iron deficiency is the cause of your fatigue, treatment may include iron supplements. Iron-rich foods such as spinach, broccoli, and red meat can also be added to your diet to help relieve symptoms. Vitamin C with meals or with iron supplements can help the iron to be better absorbed and improve your symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference

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