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By Dr. Todd Fife
Seeley-Swan Medical Center 

Tired of Being Tired

Health Happens


Dr. Todd Fife

We've all been tired at one time or another-it's seems to be one of those unfortunate side effects of life. Most often we can look to our busy schedules or our lack of exercise to find something to blame. At times, however, there may not be anything easy to blame and this is what brings many a patient into the clinic.

So what causes fatigue?

The answer is generally not that simple, as there are seemingly thousands of things that can cause fatigue. What follows is a list of the top ten that I've seen here in and around the Seeley Lake area.

Number 1: we always think first about an underactive thyroid (called hypothyroidism). The thyroid is your metabolism hormone and people with low levels are usually tired. In addition, they also complain about constipation, hair loss and dry skin. A test for this is a simple blood test and generally treatment is a daily supplement. While this is a fairly common condition, not everyone that is tired has a low thyroid. (Sometimes it's almost a disappointment when the levels come back normal.) So, let's press on.

Number two: anemia. This generally happens if you are losing blood. Women in particular are at high risk. Again, a simple blood test can show your blood count. It's quite often that we find microscopic blood loss in the urine or stool and not even know it. Frequently with blood loss, iron stores can quickly be used up and supplementing with iron can be very helpful. Depending on your diet or gut, improving your vitamin B12 or folate level can be helpful.

Number three: depression. This is a big one and one we don't always think about causing fatigue. Often times, we do a full lab panel and not find anything obvious and only then ask about depressive symptoms only to be surprised that this in fact is a huge part of the fatigue. Depression can manifest with somatic complaints (like fatigue or chronic pain). Come talk to you doctor if you feel you might be depressed.

Number four: sleep apnea. Let's face it, if you are not sleeping well, you are bound to be tired. People with sleep apnea have trouble sleeping because the airway can get lax and heavy and actually impede proper breathing at night. Typically, these people are heavier, often snore and their family may complain that they actually stop breathing occasionally until they wake up gasping for breath. Fortunately, we have good ways to detect sleep apnea as well as other sleep disorders.

Finally, number five: obesity. While nobody likes to hear that perhaps they are tired because they are overweight, the reality is that this is a very common reason for chronic fatigue. Yes, we would love to blame the thyroid or a low blood count, but frequently it is as simple as losing weight. Typically people will start feeling better with a good cardiovascular routine-even before we see significant weight loss.

So this is just the tip of the iceberg. Don't forget about use of alcohol or drugs, poor eating habits, anxiety, head injuries, tumors, liver or kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, MS, stress or even chronic pain.

The bottom line here is: if you don't have a good excuse, then get some rest or get in shape but if you feel there may be something more going on, go see your doc and talk about a check-up.

As always, see you at the clinic.


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