• If you're getting to bed early enough but still exhausted throughout the day, there could be an underlying health condition making you tired. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Are you so depleted of energy that your standard response to “how are you?” is “tired”? One of these underlying conditions might be causing your fatigue.
Lakshmi Singh

7 Feb 2017 - 11:49 AM  UPDATED 7 Feb 2017 - 4:18 PM

You may be Iron deficient or anaemic

A 2008 Australian study found that about 10% of women under 50 had depleted iron stores in their body. The number is even higher for Indigenous women over 14 (72%) and Indigenous children (79%). Iron deficiency could be due to increased demand, such as in pregnant or menstruating women and adolescent children. It could also be due to inadequate dietary intake or reduced ability to absorb iron. Left untreated for long periods, you could develop anaemia - a condition where the number or quality of red blood cells the body produces is abnormal.

Symptoms of iron deficiency and anaemia include general fatigue, pale skin, dry nails and shortness of breath. In severe cases, there could also be chest pains, breathlessness or dizziness.

However, some groups may be asymptomatic. For example, a 2009 Australian study of newly arrived migrant children (75% of which were African), showed that anaemia was prevalent in 15%, but without many symptoms.

For this reason, Dr. Magdalena Simonis, spokesperson from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) advises people not to self-diagnose and start popping iron pills because they are tired.  

“Iron deficiency anaemia can be the hallmark of disease such as malabsorption, chronic disease, connective tissue disorders, underlying blood loss that is 'occult' or silent such as bowel cancer and other forms of 'neoplasm' or malignancy,” she says.

In addition, iron deficiency isn’t the only form of anaemia that can cause tiredness, with a person’s cultural background also impacting their risk of anaemia and the type of deficiency. For instance, people from a Greek or Italian background are more likely to suffer a type of blood disorder known as Thalassemia. The condition can result in differing severities of anaemia and fatigue.

You may have thyroid problems

The butterfly shaped gland in your throat, responsible for many metabolic functions within your body may be producing insufficient or excessive amounts of thyroid affecting energy levels. Sometimes, the causes for the disturbance in hormone levels is due to underlying autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and Grave’s disease. According to a 2014 study, people of African descent and Asians have an increased risk of developing Grave’s disease, where too much thyroid hormone is produced. The study also found that white people are more likely to develop Hashimoto’s, where the immune system attacks the thyroid itself, resulting in a fall in hormone production. Either way, fatigue, memory problems and weight fluctuations are some prevailing symptoms.

Even if you do not have one of these conditions, slightly decreased or elevated levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) can result in subclinical hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism with similar symptoms of tiredness and low cognition. It is estimated that subclinical hypothyroidism is prevalent in about 5% of Australia’s population.

However, it is important for you to seek professional medical opinion as an underactive thyroid can be a sign of other conditions like connective tissue disease or hormone changes in peri menopausal women, says Dr. Simonis.

You succumb often to infections

Respiratory and gastrointestinal infections in themselves can run your body down but sometimes, prolonged, recurrent and serious infections mean the ensuing fatigue gives rise to a malaise known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). A 2016 Australian study found that out of the patients registered as having CFS in a national database, symptoms reported ranged from fatigue lasting for at least six months, cognitive difficulties, sleep problems, muscle weakness and pain. Some people had suffered from Epstein Barr Virus or Ross River virus or were subjected to periods of undue stress, and most were women (78.61%), Caucasian and highly educated.  

However, CFS has many interpretations, Dr. Simonis warns.

“Some of these people suffer immune system deficiency, some have connective tissue diseases some have malabsorption issues, some have underlying depression causing the fatigue.”

She advises people to seek medical advice if infections last beyond three weeks, resolve slowly and then recur.

You are on a treadmill stuck on repeat

In other words, you either don’t use the word ‘No’ as often as you should or you have unrelenting standards, where nothing but perfection will suffice. The mental fatigue associated with keeping things in place and running smoothly could be making you tired. Studies show that women are especially prone to perfectionism and the feeling that they are not meeting the high standards they set for themselves. Furthermore, this cycle of constantly being on the go was associated with CFS and perfectionism was associated with developing eating disorders and depression – all of which are linked with fatigue.

You have coeliac disease

According to Coeliac Australia, approximately 1 in 70 Australians are affected by coeliac disease, where the body is so sensitive to gluten that tiredness, chronic inflammation and malnutrition can result.

If you have bloating or diarrhoea after eating meals containing gluten, or suffer from chronic anaemia or chronically low levels of vitamin B12, these could be all signs you are gluten intolerant, says Dr. Simonis.

Once only thought to afflict people from European backgrounds, recent studies suggest that the worldwide diagnosis of coeliac disease is on the rise – with people from Indian, Jewish and Middle Eastern backgrounds now being more likely to have the illness.

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