Why Am I So Tired: The Many Causes of Fatigue (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Fatigue as a symptom of underlying conditions

So what are some common questions you may hear your doctor ask that gives clues to the underlying causes of fatigue? The first set of questions may lead to some frequently seen causes of fatigue:

  • Are you possibly pregnant?
  • Have you started a new exercise or diet program?
  • Any recent work changes like extended hours or night shifts?
  • Any new stress (death of a family member, teenager rebellion, work pressures, divorce, financial problems)?
  • Are you taking any new medications?
  • Do you get tired at certain times (during or after your period, after interactions with a certain person, or after taking medicine)?
  • Any use of illegal or un-prescribed drugs, herbal products or other supplements?

The answers can give the patient and their doctor some insight into three major categories of problems that can have fatigue as a symptom:

  1. sleep problems,
  2. mental health, and
  3. medications.

In addition, such questions can provide insight about short-term normal fatigue such as bereavement, exercise, or changes in normal activity.

Testing and further diagnosis for fatigue

The other types of questions are a bit harder for both the patient and the doctor to use as clues because if the patient responds positively, often the physician will be need some additional testing done (possibly by other doctors or tests with results that will not be immediately available to your physician) to uncover or clarify an answer. If you have a primary physician, that doctor should already have most of these questions partly or fully answered. However, the primary care doctor may not have these answers if you see multiple physicians, have not seen you doctor "...in quite a while..." or you are seeing a physician for the first appointment. Examples of such questions include:

  • Did the fatigue develop gradually or quickly?
  • Do you have a history of diabetes, thyroid or other medical problems in your family?
  • Have you had a recent illness (for example, the flu, mononucleosis, "viral" illness)?
  • Have you traveled outside of the U.S.?
  • What is your current medical history (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], congestive heart failure [CHF] or coronary artery disease [CAD])?
  • What is your surgical history (neck, kidney, liver)?
  • What are the current medications you take, their dose and frequency?
  • Have you had any medical tests performed recently and what were the results?

Answers to these questions can lead to clues and further tests for underlying causes of fatigue that stem from:

These diseases listed between parentheses are only a few examples of the major categories of diseases and other fatigue problems that can stem from underlying diseases such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, and even therapy such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Why Am I So Tired? The Many Causes of Fatigue Resources

Read patient comments on Fatigue - Causes

Doctor written main article on Fatigue

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/11/2017

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors