Are You Feeling Worn Down?
BY Cade Fields-Gardner
July 06 2007 12:00 AM ET
Fatigue is among the top 10 problems mentioned by patients when visiting their doctors. Fatigue has been categorized as both a psychological and physical symptom, often closely related to depression and mental stress. Fatigue is varied in intensity and is reported by many people living with HIV infection. The symptoms range from a mild tiredness to full exhaustion. If you have vague feelings of tiredness and a lack of energy, you could be experiencing fatigue. More debilitating fatigue can prevent participation in normal activities of daily living. If these feelings occur after exercising, they could be characterized as a normal response. But if the feelings are not resolved by resting, this type of fatigue requires attention.
Since fatigue is reported more often by women than by men, it would appear that there is a difference in how it affects the sexes. However, it could be that men are simply less likely to report fatigue. Couch potatoes experience more fatigue than people who exercise regularly. Others at high risk include people who are obese, depressed, or stressed, or who drink alcohol or smoke. Dehydration from diarrhea, vomiting, exercise without adequate rehydration, exposure to hot climates, and bed rest can lead to fatigue. It doesn't take long to become fatigued when you are bed-bound'only about 24 hours.
Several types of anemia can cause fatigue, including iron-deficiency anemia, other nutritional deficiencies, bone marrow dysfunction, medication-induced anemia, hypogonadism, and thyroid disorder. Infection itself can cause fatigue. This includes primary HIV infection as well as flu or respiratory diseases. Some medications are associated with fatigue, such as interferon for treatment of hepatitis C.
Solutions and coping mechanisms have been a matter of trial and error for most who experience chronic fatigue. Thus, it is a good idea to have your ducks in a row for things you can do yourself to overcome and prevent fatigue [check out the accompanying list].
In addition, talk with your doctor and other members of your health care team about your fatigue. In some cases, medication therapy, sleep therapy, and psychotherapy can be an important adjunct to treat or reduce the problems that lead to fatigue.
Sometimes becoming fatigued is a slow process that can sneak up on you the way gaining weight sneaks up. Stay tuned into your energy levels. Keep your health care team apprised of any problems or changes and be proactive in doing something about them sooner rather than waiting for serious decline to set in. From today, go forth and be active all the years of your life.