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Why Am I So Tired? 10 Possible Causes of Fatigue

When it's time to see a doctor about your exhaustion -- and what to try first.
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Could It Be Something Else?

The most common reasons for feeling so tired all the time are those we've just discussed. Don't start thinking that you've got a medical condition until you've tried those strategies and really given them a chance.

If you still feel exhausted, you'll need to check with your health care provider to look into it. Chronic tiredness is linked to many different medical conditions, such as:

4. Anemia. "This is a very common cause of fatigue and very easy to check with a simple blood test," says Sandra Fryhofer, MD, an Emory University clinical associate professor of medicine. "It's particularly a problem for women, especially those who are having heavy menstrual periods." You can remedy anemia with an iron-rich diet, heavy in meats and dark, leafy greens, or supplements if you have a chronic iron deficiency.

5. Deficiencies in key nutrients, such as potassium. Again, this is easily checked with blood testing.

6. Thyroid problems. Over- and under-active thyroids both can cause fatigue, Fryhofer says. A blood test for your level of thyroid-stimulating hormone can help evaluate your thyroid function.

7. Diabetes. People who have uncontrolled diabetes "just plain don't feel good," Fryhofer says. "If you feel draggy and you're also having blurred vision or lots of urination, you should get that checked with a blood test."

8. Depression. If your feelings of exhaustion are accompanied by sadness and loss of appetite, and you just can't find any pleasure in things you once enjoyed, you may be depressed. Don't keep that to yourself. Your doctor, or a therapist, can start you on the path back to feeling better.

9. Sleep problems. If you never feel rested, and nothing seems to fix that, you might look into visiting a sleep lab, especially if you snore. Snoring can be part of obstructive sleep apnea, in which people briefly stop breathing several times a night. There are treatments for that.

10. Undiagnosed heart disease. Tiredness can be a sign of heart trouble, particularly in women, Ralston says. "If you have trouble with exercise you used to do easily, or if you start feeling worse when you exercise, this could be a red flag for heart trouble. If you have any doubts, see your doctor."

But again, start with the basics: your sleep, your diet, and your activity level. Sometimes the simplest fixes are all it takes.

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Reviewed on March 04, 2012
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