Fatigue: When to See a Doctor

woman at her desk

This page has been reviewed by a medical professional.
Reviewed by Dr. Phil Mitchell, MD, MS

After a long day at work, nothing sounds better than a hot cup of tea and a few episodes of your favorite show. Most Americans can agree with that; after all, more than a third of adults report getting fewer than seven hours of sleep per night, when the National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine.

But when do your bleary-eyed mornings become a sign of something more serious? How do you know if your fatigue is something you can fix, or if it warrants a visit with a doctor?

Read on to dive into the causes of fatigue, decide if it’s time to get a medical professional involved, and learn useful tips you can implement in your daily life to up your energy levels (and reduce your caffeine intake!).

Common Causes of Fatigue

In most cases, lifestyle factors, such as routines and habits, are the underlying cause of fatigue. Fortunately, there are plenty of lifestyle changes you can make to perk yourself up and combat fatigue effectively, which we’ll go over in a bit. To start, common causes of fatigue include: 

  • Poor diet 
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive caffeine consumption
  • Some medications
  • A lack or excess of physical activity
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Alcohol or drug use 
  • Obesity
  • Stress, boredom, anxiety, or grief
  • Jet lag 

Modern culture has a tendency to glorify busy, stress-laden lifestyles, which can make some of the factors in the above list seem like an acceptable part of daily life. For example, we’ve all heard someone at the office boast about how many cups of coffee they consume per day or how they regularly work through their lunch break. 

In reality, though, these habits have been proven to put you at risk of fatigue. Fatigue can not only reduce your quality of life, but it can also have severe long-term effects on your health.

When to See a Doctor

In some cases, fatigue can be a symptom of a health issue that requires medical attention. Unrelenting fatigue that isn’t touched by extra rest or lifestyle changes could be a sign that there’s something else going on. And since constant, severe fatigue can affect your concentration, motivation, and emotional wellbeing, it’s essential to visit with a doctor to discuss the possibility of one of the following causes:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Anemia
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Anemia
  • COPD
  • Diabetes
  • Emphysema
  • Thyroid issues 
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • A concussion

If your fatigue is accompanied by suicidal thoughts or a concern that you might harm another person, seek immediate medical attention to get the treatment you need. You should also seek emergency care if you feel fatigue accompanied by an irregular heartbeat, a severe headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, or pain in the chest, back, or abdominal or pelvic regions. 

If you’ve felt unrelentingly fatigued for more than two weeks despite making lifestyle changes to feel better, it’s probably time to see a doctor to ensure one of the above causes aren’t at work. 

Tips for Fatigue Relief 

Most bouts of fatigue are caused by lifestyle factors. Fortunately, there are a number of changes you can make in your life to combat fatigue and get on the road to a healthy, happy, one-cup-of-coffee-a-day life again. Here are a few ways to reduce fatigue that’s caused by lifestyle factors:

  • Exercise regularly. One study at the University of Georgia found that you can reduce your fatigue by as much as 65% by introducing regular, low-intensity exercise into your weekly routine.
  • Minimize stressors. Stress and anxiety can both contribute to fatigue, so try to minimize them as much as possible. Take up regular self-care practices, like meditation, going for walks, and relaxing baths to minimize stress and keep yourself calm. 
  • Limit your alcohol consumption. For many, it’s a vicious cycle: A stressful week causes you to want to let off some steam on the weekends, often aided by alcohol. Not only does this work-hard-play-hard attitude discourage a balanced lifestyle, but excessive alcohol consumption can be a big contributing factor to weekly fatigue. That fatigue, in turn, can lessen your productivity at work, leading to stress; this begins the cycle anew.
  • Improve your diet. Obesity and nutrition have both been linked to fatigue, so it stands to reason that making healthier diet choices can perk up your energy levels. Try to stick to a balanced diet that includes vegetables, whole grains, and a variety of unrefined fats and proteins. Avoid refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and refined sugars, all of which are bad for your health and won’t fill you up.

How Can DispatchHealth Help?

When you’re experiencing unrelenting fatigue, it can be difficult to find the energy to get in the car and head to the doctor’s office. With DispatchHealth, you don’t have to. Our qualified medical team will come to you to treat your fatigue within the comfort of your own home. We accept most major insurance carriers, including Medicaid and Medicare, and offer an affordable flat rate for uninsured patients. Requesting care is easy—all you have to do is download our app, give us a call, or use our website to receive medical attention for your fatigue at your doorstep within a few hours. Get in touch today to get to the bottom of your fatigue. 

Sources

DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html
  2. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/fatigue/basics/definition/sym-20050894
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5420158/
  5. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080228112008.htm
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17148748
  7. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/eating-to-boost-energy
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DispatchHealth Staff The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.