Fatigue: The Difference Between Life & Death
By Dr. Val
Fatigue seems to be the number one 'disease' in the modern world today. As a result of our hectic lifestyles, where we try to fit as many things into our schedules as possible, this is perhaps no surprise. As a precursor to a disease state, fatigue is a vague symptom that precedes too many illnesses. Being able to tell the difference between the two major causes of fatigue can mean the difference between getting treatment in time to halt disease and sliding fast into a chronic disease state...or worse. Fatigue caused by too many things to do, excessive exercise, or stress is somewhat easily relieved by cutting a few things out of the schedule and taking steps to get restful sleep. It might seem obvious but most people would be very surprised to find out how many people visit doctors with a chief complaint of fatigue. The first thing the physician will do is tell the patient to 'slow down' and knock out as many stressful activities as possible. A new diet, nutritional supplements and a vacation are usually suggested, along with a set of stress-busting exercises and screening lab tests to rule out disease. In some cases the patient is advised to begin working with a psychologist, with cognitive behavioral therapy, to learn better life coping habits.
If the changes in lifestyle do not relieve the fatigue or if there are worrisome abnormalities, more tests or a medication regimen may be started. The problem with a diagnosis of undetermined fatigue is that it is such a vague symptom and a common feature in many disease states. The chief complaint of most women who are having heart attacks is fatigue... no chest pain or shortness of breath and maybe some dizziness but other than that, fatigue and weakness can be the only symptoms. Thanks to the vagueness of the symptoms--and the tendency of male doctors to brush the symptom off as 'stress'--thousands of female heart attack victims go undiagnosed...and many die.
Excessive tiredness is also the first major symptom of immune system problems. The immune system requires huge amounts of energy to function; flu symptoms are a good example of what an energy drain an activated immune system can be. Chronic and terminal disease states impact the energy of the body tremendously as it fights to throw off the cause and effects of disease. Being aware of the cause of fatigue can truly mean the difference between life and death. Sometimes the cause needs to be diagnosed immediately, such as in heart attack or stroke. At other times undiagnosed tiredness can signal a slippery slide into chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, oxidative stress that leads to other chronic degenerative diseases, or depression. Whatever the cause of exhaustion, it is not normal and should be dealt with immediately to avoid catastrophic problems later on. Sudden unexplained fatigue can be the only signal to a heart attack while fatigue after a day of unaccustomed busyness can be solved with a good night's sleep. When in doubt, speak to a triage nurse at your local emergency room or call your physician's office.
©2021 Dr. Valerie Olmsted All Rights Reserved Worldwide