Why am I so tired? 3 ways to figure out what may be causing your chronic fatigue symptoms
Long-term fatigue or feelings of excessive and extreme tiredness can interfere with your quality of life and get in the way of everyday activities. If your fatigue has persisted for six months or more, and it does not improve with rest and gets worse with physical or mental activity, it may be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). However, many common health conditions can cause extreme fatigue symptoms—so if you’re tired of feeling tired, it may be time to find answers. Here are three ways to help find them.
1) Learn about CFS and common fatigue symptoms
Sometimes referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue syndrome is a serious condition that can affect several parts of your body. If you have severe sleep or fatigue problems, and they have persisted for more than six months, you may be one of 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans who suffer from CFS.
Ultimately, there is no single test to confirm or diagnose CFS but the first step is to recognize the symptoms and understand them. Based on your medical history and symptoms, your healthcare provider can test for underlying health conditions to help eliminate other issues or disorders. This is why it’s important to learn and recognize the symptoms of CFS.
CFS has a number of causes—but three common, primary symptoms:
- Inability to participate in routine activities. Regular, daily activities like your job, school or social life become impacted by feelings of fatigue that last for more than six months and is not improved by rest
- Post-exertional malaise (PEM). When you exert physical or mental energy, your fatigue symptoms worsen—often called “crashing” by people with CFS
- Restless sleep. If you have CFS, then the recommended eight hours might not do the trick. A full night’s sleep may even lead to waking up feeling just as tired. You may have problems falling asleep or staying asleep.
If you plan to see your provider with concerns about possible CFS, it may be helpful to write down information about your signs and symptoms, sleep habits and key changes or major stressors in your life, prior to your visit.
2) Understand common health conditions with symptoms that are similar to CFS
Any number of reasons could be causing your fatigue symptoms, such as issues caused by lower levels of thyroid hormones. Beyond thyroid disorders, fatigue is also very commonly associated with the following:
- Levels of iron (ferritin) and anemia. Ferritin is a protein that helps your blood store iron, helping produce more red blood cells. Anemia occurs when you have low levels of red blood cells (hemoglobin) and can cause extreme fatigue.
- Metabolic hormones. Your blood contains several essential components—sugars, minerals, electrolytes, enzymes and even waste products—as a result of your metabolism. Imbalanced levels can lead to fatigue associated with metabolic health problems.
- Blood glucose (diabetes). Your blood sugar (blood glucose) is a good barometer of your overall health. Elevated levels are often indicative of prediabetes and diabetes, and fatigue and exhaustion are common symptoms of each.
3) Purchase a comprehensive fatigue test
A comprehensive fatigue test like Labcorp OnDemand’s Fatigue Test may help shed a light on potential health imbalances and deficiencies that may be contributing to the symptoms are experiencing. This simple and comprehensive blood test measures:
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), a hormone that plays a critical role in your body’s metabolism
- Complete Blood Count (CBC), a measure of the major circulating blood cell types and a useful tool for detecting anemia
- Diabetes Risk (HbA1c), a measure of your average blood sugar levels (typically 8-12 weeks) and a useful tool for detecting and/or monitoring diabetes
- Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP), which is used to check for glucose, calcium, chloride, potassium, and several other important levels related to your metabolism
- Ferritin, a measure of your body’s iron storage levels
This test can provide information about critical health measures that may be contributing to your fatigue. Let your healthcare provider know exactly how you feel, how fatigue interferes with your daily life and any other symptoms you may be dealing with.
Your fatigue may come with several symptoms and may be related to an underlying health condition—but answers are out there, answers that can help you get your fatigue under control.