What tests are there for tiredness?
If your tiredness is persisting, or if you are unwell in any other way, or if it is having an effect on your life, see your GP. In order to try to find the cause, your doctor will need to ask you some questions. They may need to examine you and they may arrange some blood tests.
Questions you may be asked
These are to help give some clues about the cause of the tiredness, and may include:
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- Sleep: Do you sleep well? Is your sleep interrupted? Do you snore? Has your partner noticed any changes to your breathing at night?
- Mood: Do you feel low, or more worried than usual? Are you under any stress? You may be asked to complete a specific questionnaire about your mood.
- Has your weight changed?
- Do you have heavy periods? (If you are a woman and of menstruating age.)
- How much alcohol do you drink?
- Are you on any medication?
- Can you remember when this started? Did it start suddenly and can you date it from a particular date, event, holiday or illness? Or did it come on more gradually?
- How is the tiredness affecting you in your everyday life?
The doctor may examine you
The doctor may check your weight and height, if it seems relevant. You may not be examined, as it may depend on your answers to some of the questions above; however, the doctor may think it relevant to:
- Check your lymph glands to see if they are enlarged.
- Check your thyroid gland (in your neck) to see if it is enlarged.
- Look at your eyes to see if you might be anaemic.
- Listen to your chest and feel your tummy and the organs in your tummy.
- Check your joints for swelling or inflammation.
- Check the strength of your arms and/or legs.
- Ask you for a sample of your urine to check for sugar (for diabetes) or infection.
Your doctor may feel you should have some blood tests to rule out physical causes for tiredness. In most cases these turn out to be normal. This might include tests to rule out:
- Low iron levels (anaemia).
- Low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism).
- Vitamin deficiencies such as B12 or vitamin D.
- Coeliac disease.
- Any inflammation in your system.
- Any problems with the function of your liver or kidneys.
- Tests for specific infections, such as glandular fever.
Usually no other tests are needed, but if specific medical conditions are suspected, other tests such as a chest X-ray might be necessary.
Further reading and references
Tiredness/fatigue in adults; NICE CKS, February 2015 (UK access only)
Hamilton W, Watson J, Round A; Investigating fatigue in primary care. BMJ. 2010 Aug 24341:c4259. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c4259.
Rosenthal TC, Majeroni BA, Pretorius R, et al; Fatigue: an overview. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Nov 1578(10):1173-9.
Vaucher P, Druais PL, Waldvogel S, et al; Effect of iron supplementation on fatigue in nonanemic menstruating women with low ferritin: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2012 Aug 7184(11):1247-54. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.110950. Epub 2012 Jul 9.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.