Tiredness, or fatigue, means having less energy than usual. You feel exhausted, either mentally, physically, or both. Tiredness is a normal part of life, but if it persists, it may suggest a medical problem.
We have all experienced tiredness (fatigue) at some point. Usually there's a good reason for it ... A new baby keeping you up at night, having a bit of a cold, a late night out on the town, or (less enjoyably) long hours at work. Tiredness that drags on for no apparent reason, however, can be a real problem, and it's incredibly common. About 6 in every 100 people going to see their GP are there because they feel tired. It's so common that GPs have an acronym for it ... TATT, which means "tired all the time".
What could be the cause?
The list of possible reasons for feeling tired is huge. Some are obvious, some are not. Some are serious, others are not. Some you can do something about, others you can't. Tiredness can be caused by medical conditions, by things going on in your mind (psychological conditions), or just by the way you are living your life. More often than not, no specific cause is found.
Read more on what causes tiredness.
Do I need to see a doctor?
If you can figure out the reason for feeling tired yourself, and do something about it, then no. If the tiredness is getting in the way of your life, or making you feel unhappy, or you feel unwell, then yes, you should visit your doctor.
You should definitely see a doctor if you feel tired and have lost weight without trying to. Also see a doctor if you have other symptoms as well as being tired, such as coughing up blood, a change in the way your guts are working, heavy periods or a lump somewhere it shouldn't be.
Do I need any tests?
If you go to your doctor, they will work with you to try to figure out the cause. They will ask you questions which might give clues to the cause. You may be examined to see if there are any physical changes which might help give an idea. You will probably be asked to go to get a raft of blood tests done. (You may see the acronym "TATT" on your form!)
Discover which tests may be done for tiredness.
What is the treatment?
Well, that will depend on the cause, so there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. If a medical cause is found, your doctor should be able to treat it or help you manage it so that you feel better. Often no physical cause is found, even after lots of blood tests. It may often be put down to stress or lifestyle. However, sometimes there are things that may help you feel better.
Some lifestyle changes which might help some people include:
- Eat regular meals and healthy snacks.
- Regular moderate exercise.
- If you are overweight then losing weight will help.
- A good night's sleep is very important.
- Anything that helps you to relax and reduces stress.
- Drink less alcohol and avoid binge drinking.
- Don't bottle up your worries and stresses.
Find out more about treatments for tiredness.
The good news is that, for most people, even if no cause is found, the tiredness usually settles in time.
Did you find this information useful?
- 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 24 341:c4259. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c4259.
- Rosenthal TC, Majeroni BA, Pretorius R, et al; Fatigue: an overview. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Nov 15 78(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 7 184(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.