Extreme Fatigue: 8 Causes & What You Can Do

Updated in January 2022

Extreme fatigue is generally a result of inadequate rest, but it can also be a sign of other illnesses like anemia, diabetes, thyroid problems or other depression. Normally, if fatigue is caused by a health condition, you may feel fatigue and weakness, even after a good night’s sleep.

If you frequently feel tired, you should monitor for other symptoms and bring your concerns to a doctor, as you may require treatment. 

8 health conditions that can cause extreme and frequent fatigue include:

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1. Diabetes

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause frequent fatigue because glucose that is circulating in the blood is unable to reach the cells. This means the cells are unable to get energy for their normal functioning, and the body will lack strength to complete normal day-to-day tasks. In addition to excess sugar levels in the blood, uncontrolled diabetes will also cause increased urination, which may lead to weight loss and decreased muscle mass. It is common for diabetics with high blood sugars to report muscular weakness.

The type of doctor you should see: An endocrinologist or dietitian, so that fasting blood glucose levels and average glucose levels can be assessed. The dietitian can establish a meal plan that is based around the glucose results and monitor treatment.

How to manage diabetes: You should take your prescription medication as directed by your doctor. You diet will also play a role in how your diabetes is managed, therefore you should avoid food that is high in sugar. Regular physical activity is also important.

2. Anemia

Low iron levels in the blood can cause fatigue, drowsiness and lack of motivation. In women, this fatigue becomes more pronounced during menstruation, as iron reserves further decrease with period-related blood loss.

The type of doctor you should see: Family doctor, or a gynecologist (if you are a woman). A gynecologist can be helpful in determining whether menstrual flow is within normal limits, and to assess whether there are any abnormalities like menorrhagia. To diagnose anemia, a blood test should be order.

How to manage anemia: You should consume foods that are high in iron (both animal and plant based) on a daily basis. Some examples include red meat, beats and beans. Iron supplementation may be necessary in some cases, and it should be done as indicated by your doctor or dietitian.

3. Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is characterized by the interruption of breathing during sleep. It can occur for short periods and several times throughout the night, and can lead to unrestful sleep and fatigue upon waking up. Muscular weakness and drowsiness throughout the day are also common symptoms of sleep apnea.

The type of doctor you should see: A sleep specialist, so that a sleep study (a polysomnography) can be completed to assess for sleep disturbances.

How to manage sleep apnea: To improve sleep, the cause of the sleep apnea should be identified. If it is caused by excess weight, for example, a diet may be indicated as well as the use of a CPAP machine. If it is due to tobacco use or alcohol consumption, these should be avoided as well. Sleep apnea can also be caused by medication like sedative or tranquilizers, therefore it is important to consult your doctor to adjust your medication or consider an alternative if that is the case.

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4. Depression

One of the common symptoms of depression is frequent physical and mental fatigue, in which you feel a lack of motivation to complete your daily tasks or even go to work. Although this is a mental health disease, it can also affect your physical health.

The type of doctor you should see: A psychiatrist is the most recommended doctor. He or she can identify the possible signs that indicate depression and initiate appropriate treatment (which usually includes medication and therapy).

How to manage depression: You should be followed by a psychologist and a psychiatrist for medication management. It is also important to engage in activities that you previously found enjoyable as a way to improve your brain function and mood.

5. Fibromyalgia

It is common to feel full body pain with fibromyalgia, particular in the muscles. This condition is also associated with frequent and persistent fatigue, mood changes, and difficulty completing day-to-day tasks. It may also affect your work life, as well as your sleep patterns (due to taking up tired in the morning from an unrestful sleep).

The type of doctor you should see: A rheumatologist, who can order several tests to rule out other conditions. Diagnosis is confirmed with assessment of symptoms as well as a specific physical exam.

How to manage fibromyalgia: You are advised to take medications as directed by your doctor. Exercise like pilates, yoga or swimming is also recommended to promote stretching and strengthening of the muscles, which will help to make them more resistant to pain.

6. Cardiac disease

Arrhythmias and heart failure can also cause frequent fatigue and dizziness. In this case, the heart does not have enough strength to efficiently contract and pump blood to te rest of the body, resulting in constant fatigue.

The type of doctor you should see: A cardiologist, who can order testing like bloodwork and electrocardiogram.

How to manage cardiac disease: See your cardiologist and take your medications as indicated. You should pay attention to your diet and avoid foods with high fat and sugar content. You should also participate in regular, supervised exercise.

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7. Infections

Infections like the cold or flu can cause extreme fatigue because the body dedicates its energy to fighting off the illness. With infections, in addition to fatigue, you may also experience symptoms like fever or muscular pain, which should be reported to your doctor.

The type of doctor you should see: A family doctor, who can order bloodwork or other specific testing, depending on the symptoms you have. Based on the results, you may be referred to a specialist, like an infectious disease specialist.

How to manage infections: After confirming a diagnosis, the doctor may prescribe medication to help to treat te infection. By following the doctors treatment plan, the infection will likely resolve and the symptoms related to the infection, including fatigue, will disappear.

8. Thyroid abnormalities

Thyroid hormones are responsible for maintaining metabolism, and fatigue may emerge if these hormones become unregulated.

The type of doctor you should see: Endocrinologist, to order blood tests like TSH, T3 and T4 to assess thyroid functioning.

How to manage thyroid abnormalities: It is important to take medications as indicated by your doctor to maintain thyroid hormone levels under control. This will allow metabolism to return to normal, which should resolve fatigue.

One of the best ways to treat fatigue is dedicating time to rest and achieve a restorative sleep. Taking time off from work may be a good idea to decrease work-related stress. If time off does not resolve your fatigue, you should consider booking an appointment with your doctor to assess your fatigue. Weight loss may also help, as well as the treatment of any underlying conditions like diabetes, infection and thyroid problems.