You’ve tried stretching, eating more veggies and doing mini-meditations. You’ve even cut out caffeine – but you still feel tired. A do-it-yourself energy booster might not be enough to solve your problems with fatigue. Doctors can help, but when is it time to make that appointment?
“If fatigue is interfering with your day-to-day activities and you’re not able to do the things you want to do because you don’t have enough energy, it’s time to seek medical attention,” says Elinor Mody, MD, director of the Women’s Orthopedic and Joint Disease Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Your doctor can help find the cause of the fatigue and offer appropriate treatment.”
• Take the tests. Anemia, depression, sleep apnea and liver disease are just some of the causes of fatigue. Doctors will review your medical history, assess your symptoms and order tests.
“We run standard lab tests to check for iron levels, vitamin D deficiency and thyroid problems to help us rule out some of the more common causes of low energy,” explains Miles Hassell, MD, medical director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the Providence Cancer Center in Portland, Oregon. “It’s important to make time to have the tests done so that your doctor can get to the root of the problem.”
One type of anemia, also called “anemia of chronic disease,” is often seen in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Effective treatment of arthritis usually resolves this type of anemia.
• Be prepared. The more information you can provide your doctor about your symptoms, the better. Arrive at your appointment with notes on the times of day (or month) when your energy is at its lowest, and specify any other symptoms you’ve been experiencing, such as dizziness, rashes or pain.
• Follow the doctor’s orders. Depending upon your test results, your doctor might suggest anything from getting more exercise and starting iron supplements to using antidepressants as energy boosters. It’s important to follow the recommended course of action – and to report back to your doctor if your symptoms worsen or if you have a reaction to any part of the treatment.
People with RA often experience inflammation-related fatigue. Doctors can improve this type of fatigue by prescribing higher doses of your drugs or another drug to control the body’s inflammatory process. Once inflammation is under control, fatigue usually diminishes.