'Tired all the time' is a popular phrase given by patients to their family doctors. Tiredness or fatigue is a common problem. Often, it is not a medical issue but one that can be reversed by a change of lifestyle.
Tiredness can negatively impact performance at work, or have an adverse effect on family life and social relationships.1
Fatigue has a reputation as a vague and difficult problem for doctors to investigate, a 'heart sink' problem, and many people with fatigue do not report it to their doctor.2 Primary care physicians who are conscious of this, and the ongoing patient-physician relationship, will take the problem seriously and attempt to determine an underlying cause.
Here are some key points about fatigue. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
Simply-put, fatigue is the feeling of being tired. It is generally different from the sleepy feeling of drowsiness, or from the psychological feeling of apathy, although these can both accompany fatigue.3
Other terms to describe fatigue include:
Fatigue is a common experience - we all feel tired occasionally - but this is not usually due to disease. There are numerous medical and non-medical causes of fatigue, including personal dietary and lifestyle habits.1,2,4
Some groups are more likely than others to suffer from fatigue, with women more often reporting feelings of fatigue. People who live in poverty, and/or who live with mental or physical illness are also more likely to present with fatigue.1
The following is a list of factors that can contribute to fatigue, either alone or in combination, demonstrating just how varied the causes can be:1
Fatigue that may be considered normal, i.e. not a medical problem, include tiredness as a result of:3
The National Institute on Aging lists the following lifestyle habits that can lead to tiredness and fatigue: