St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia



    Tiredness; Weariness; Exhaustion; Lethargy

    Fatigue is a feeling of weariness, tiredness, or lack of energy.


    Fatigue is different from drowsiness. Drowsiness is feeling the need to sleep. Fatigue is a lack of energy and motivation. Drowsiness and apathy (a feeling of not caring about what happens) can be symptoms that go along with fatigue.

    Fatigue can be a normal and important response to physical activity, emotional stress, boredom, or lack of sleep. Fatigue is a common symptom, and it is usually not due to a seriousdisease.But it can be a sign of a more serious mental or physical condition. When fatigue is not relieved by enough sleep, good nutrition, or a low-stress environment, it should be evaluated by your doctor.

    The pattern of fatigue may help your doctor determine its cause. For example, if you wake up in the morning rested but quickly develop fatigue with activity, you may have a condition such as an underactive thyroid. On the other hand, if you wake up with a low level of energy and have fatigue that lasts throughout the day, you may be depressed.


    There are many possible causes of fatigue, including:

    • Anemia (including iron deficiency anemia)
    • Depression or grief
    • Iron deficiency (without anemia)
    • Medications such as sedatives or antidepressants
    • Persistent pain
    • Sleep disorders such as insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, or narcolepsy
    • Thyroid gland that is underactive or overactive
    • Use of alcohol or drugs such as cocaine or narcotics, especially with regular use

    Fatigue can also occur with the following illnesses:

    • Addison disease
    • Anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders
    • Arthritis, including juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
    • Autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus
    • Cancer
    • Congestive heart failure
    • Diabetes
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Infection, especially one that takes a long time to recover from or treat, such as bacterial endocarditis (infection of the heart muscle or valves), parasitic infections, hepatitis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) AIDS, tuberculosis, and mononucleosis
    • Kidney disease
    • Liver disease
    • Malnutrition

    Certain medications may also cause drowsiness or fatigue, including antihistamines for allergies, blood pressure medicines, sleeping pills, steroids, and diuretics.

    Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that starts with flu-like symptoms and lasts for 6 months or more. It is diagnosed based on the presence of a specific group of symptoms and after all other possible causes of fatigue are ruled out. Most people with CFS do not get much relief from rest.

    Home Care

    Here are some tips for reducing fatigue:

    • Get enough sleep each night.
    • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water throughout the day.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Learn better ways to relax. Try yoga or meditation.
    • Maintain a reasonable work and personal schedule.
    • Change or reduce your stressors, if possible. For example, take a vacation or resolve relationship problems.
    • Take a multivitamin. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
    • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and drug use.

    If you have chronic pain or depression, treating it often helps the fatigue. But some antidepressant medications may cause or worsen fatigue. Your medication may have to be adjusted to avoid this problem. Do notstop or change any medications without first talking to your doctor.

    Stimulants (including caffeine) arenot effective treatments for fatigue. They can make the problem worse when they are stopped. Sedatives also tend to worsen fatigue.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your doctor right away if:

    • You are confused or dizzy
    • You have blurred vision
    • You have little or no urine, or recent swelling and weight gain
    • You have thoughts of harming yourself or of committing suicide

    Call your doctor if:

    • You have unexplained weakness or fatigue, especially if you also have a fever or unintentional weight loss
    • You have constipation, dry skin, weight gain, or you cannot tolerate cold
    • You wake up and fall back to sleep many times during the night
    • You have headaches
    • You are taking any medications, prescription or non-prescription, or using drugs that may cause fatigue or drowsiness
    • You feel sad or depressed
    • You have insomnia

    What to Expect at Your Office Visit

    Your doctor will perform a complete physical examination, paying special attention to your heart, lymph nodes, thyroid, abdomen, and nervous system. You will be asked about your medical history, symptoms, and your lifestyle, habits, and feelings.

    Questions may include:

    • How long have you had fatigue? Did it develop recently or awhile ago?
    • Have you had fatigue in the past? If so, does it tend to occur in regular cycles?
    • How many hours do you sleep each night?
    • Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you wake up during the night?
    • Do you wake up in the morning feeling rested or fatigued?
    • Do you snore or does someone who sleeps nearby tell you that you snore?
    • Has anyone noticed that you stop breathing for short periods of time during sleep?
    • Do you feel fatigued or tired throughout the day? Does it tend to get worse as the day goes on or stay about the same?
    • Do you feel bored, stressed, unhappy, or disappointed?
    • How are your relationships?
    • Has anyone in your life recently passed away?
    • Have you had more activity (mental or physical) lately?
    • What is your diet like?
    • Do you get regular exercise?
    • Do you have any other symptoms like pain, headaches, or nausea?
    • Have you had any recent change in appetite (up or down) or weight (up or down)?
    • Do you take any prescription or non-prescription medications? Which ones?

    Tests that may be ordered include the following:

    • Blood tests to check for anemia, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and possible infection
    • Kidney function tests
    • Liver function tests
    • Thyroid function tests
    • Urinalysis


    Bennett RM. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 282.

    Griggs RC, Jozefowicz RF, Aminoff MJ. Approach to the patient with neurologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 403.


          A Closer Look

          Talking to your MD

            Self Care

              Tests for Fatigue

                Review Date: 4/21/2013

                Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

                The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

                A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

                Back  |  Top
                About Us
                Contact Us
                Locations & Directions
                Quality Reports
                Annual Reports
                Honors & Awards
                Community Health Needs

                Brain & Spine
                Sleep Medicine
                Urgent Care
                Women's Services
                All Services
                Patients & Visitors
                Locations & Directions
                Find a Physician
                Tour St. Luke's
                Patient & Visitor Information
                Contact Us
                Payment Options
                Financial Assistance
                Send a Card
                Mammogram Appointments
                Health Tools
                My Personal Health
                Spirit of Women
                Health Information & Tools
                Clinical Trials
                Employer Programs -
                Passport to Wellness

                Classes & Events
                Classes & Events
                Spirit of Women
                Donate & Volunteer
                Giving Opportunities
                Physicians & Employees
                For Physicians
                Remote Access
                Medical Residency Information
                Pharmacy Residency Information
                Physician CPOE Training
                St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
                Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile