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Updated 25 January 2017

10 medical reasons why you might be tired

A variety of illnesses could leave you feeling completely drained. We highlight 10 health conditions that are known to cause fatigue.

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Anxiety

It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious at times, but there are some people who experience constant, overpowering feelings of anxiety, so intense that it affects their daily life. Doctors call this generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). According to the mental health information centre GAD is present in three to eight percent of the general population. Apart from feeling worried and tetchy, people with GAD often also feel extreme exhaustion. Other common anxiety disorders include social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder and more.

Glandular Fever

Glandular fever is a viral infection that mostly affects young adults. Symptoms present as swollen glands in the neck, high temperature (fever), a severe sore throat and excessive tiredness. And while symptoms of glandular fever may clear up within two to three weeks, the fatigue can last for far longer. The British National Health Service (NHS) advises patients to do some light exercise once symptoms have subsided. This helps muscle strength to return.  

Restless legs syndrome

Dr Michael J. Breus, Clinical Psychologist and sleep specialist says that for the millions who suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), sleep can be exceedingly difficult and disrupted. RLS is when you get uncomfortable sensations in your legs, sometimes even in your arms such as a tingling sensation, “pins and needles”, and even pain. This usually happens when lying or sitting down. As a result, it affects your sleep dramatically, causing you to feel extremely tired during the day.

Underactive thyroid

Medically defined, an underactive thyroid also known as hypothyroidism, means that the body produces too little thyroxine. With an underactive thyroid gland, you’re likely to feel tired, gain weight and experience severe muscle aches. To diagnose this condition, doctors usually do a full blood cell count test. Hypothyroidism is more common in older people and also more common in women. Sometimes children and babies are also affected.

Sleep apnoea

This is a condition where your throat closes or narrows, affecting your breathing while you sleep. These breathing pauses may last for a couple of seconds and sometimes up to minutes, and have a great effect on your sleep. It can cause the oxygen levels in your blood to drop and may bring about excessive snoring. This condition is particularly prevalent in overweight, middle-aged men. Doctors have confirmed that drinking and smoking aggravate the condition, and advise patients to quit.

Anaemia

This common condition is brought about by the lack of iron in the body. Iron is necessary to transport oxygen in the blood and low iron levels are a common reason for feeling rundown. Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) affects about one in 20 men and post-menopausal women, and may even be common in women who are still menstruating. Typical symptoms of IDA include: tiredness, shortage of breathe, heart palpitations and a pale complexion.

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition that causes extreme tiredness, but whose cause is unknown. Experts believe that it can be brought on by a host of factors including viral infections and psychological stress. There is no test that can diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome, therefore a series of tests need to be conducted to rule out other medical issues before a diagnosis can be made.

Coeliac disease

This disease is a reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat and a number of other grains. NHS reports that in the UK one percent of people have coeliac disease, but many aren’t even aware that they have it. Symptoms include the typical tiredness and diarrhoea as well as anaemia and weight loss. Doctors are usually able to detect whether you have the condition by means of a blood test.

Diabetes

A common condition is diabetes, where there is too much sugar in the blood as a result of the lack of the hormone insulin produced in the body by the pancreas. Symptoms of diabetes are exhaustion, extreme thirst and frequent urination. Your GP can pick this up by means of a simple finger prick blood test. 

Depression

By definition depression is categorised as feelings of extreme sadness and despondency, but apart from these feelings it also makes you feel really drained. It has the potential to make it difficult for you to sleep, or wake you up early which leaves you feeling extremely tired during the day. 

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