Feeling tired? If so, it’s not surprising. Fatigue is one of the most common problems people report to their doctors. The Health and Retirement Study of more than 17 million older people ages 51 and up reported recently that 31% said they feel fatigued.
Fatigue is a symptom, not a disease. Different people experience it in different ways. The tiredness you feel at the end of a long day or after a time zone change might feel similar to that resulting from an illness. But fatigue from stress or lack of sleep usually subsides after a good night’s rest, while disease-related lethargy is more persistent and may be debilitating even after restful sleep.
Finding the cause. How do you know if your low-energy is caused by an underlying illness or is the result of stress, poor diet, or lack of sleep? For example, could you have chronic fatigue syndrome? That is an unusual illness and an uncommon cause of persistent fatigue, says Anthony Komaroff, M.D., professor of medicine at Harvard, world-renowned expert on chronic fatigue syndrome, and medical editor of a new Harvard Special Health Report, Boosting Your Energy. About 4 to 8 of every 1,000 adults in the United States suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, which is about twice as common in women as in men. The causes of chronic fatigue syndrome are still unknown, and there is no accurate diagnostic test. However, scientists have found abnormalities in the brain and peripheral nervous system, in the immune system, and in energy metabolism in people with this syndrome. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*