Information for affected and their familiy
 
Fatgue
What is fatigue?

“Fatigue” is the French word for tiredness or exhaustion and is also being called languidness or lassitude. It designates an exhaustion symptom which occurs with chronic diseases. As it is perceived by the patient and not visually noticeable to others it is a symptom opposed to a medical sign and primarily used in connection with cancer. It describes a feeling of sustained tiredness and listlessness that has an impact on the daily life of the concerned persons. In despite of sufficient sleep the patient feels weak, exhausted and overstrained.

It is often difficult to distinct fatigue from general tiredness and exhaustion. A general gradation of tiredness does not exist. The judgement of the patient and the surrounding’s observation are the most significant criteria for a firm diagnosis.

A comprehensive conversation between patient and doctor is essential for the diagnosis of fatigue. Due to the fact that all patients react differently to the symptoms of chronic diseases and the therapeutic measures that are prescribed to cure them, most patients do not identify the exhaustion as a treatable symptom but as a necessary side affect to deal with.

One of the difficult tasks while coping with fatigue is to make the surrounding understand the permanent exhaustion and tiredness. On the other hand the surrounding cannot see clear visible signs of fatigue and can experience difficulties to put themselves in the position of the patient. In order to prevent mental burdens, relaxing and joyful activities should be planned for every day.

Although fatigue patients experience permanent tiredness, many of them suffer from insomnia. A light hypnotic can help to fight severe sleeping problems but it should have a short impact and should not take an effect the next day.

Fatigue appears as a symptom of several diseases. It is mostly mentioned in the context of cancer. Other diseases which cause fatigue are autoimmune diseases, chronic infections and mental disorders. Besides the physical impact of these diseases the often long-term and exhausting therapeutic measures are responsible for the genesis of fatigue.

The cause of fatigue is being seen as a combination of multiple facts and therefore develops for different reasons. The treatment of an illness can cause changes of the metabolism, the hormone level and brain functions.

What is fatigue?

“Fatigue” is the French word for tiredness or exhaustion and is also being called languidness or lassitude. It designates an exhaustion symptom which occurs with chronic diseases. As it is perceived by the patient and not visually noticeable to others it is a symptom opposed to a medical sign and primarily used in connection with cancer. It describes a feeling of sustained tiredness and listlessness that has an impact on the daily life of the concerned persons. In despite of sufficient sleep the patient feels weak, exhausted and overstrained.

Diseases connected to fatigue

Besides cancer, diseases with which fatigue occurs as a response of the immune system fighting e. g. an infection, are chronic heart and lung diseases, rheumatism, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, hypertension plus neurological and intestine disorders. Generally it occurs with the beginning of the therapy for these diseases. It can last several weeks or months and continue even after the end of the therapeutic measures.

Causes of fatigue

The causes of fatigue have not been finally elaborated yet. Latest research developments found that the exhaustion syndrome occurs due to multiple factors and for different reasons like blood disorders such as anaemia and hemochromatosis, eating disorders and mental disorders. Fatigue can also occur as a side effect caused by the medicinal treatment used in order to cure the causing disease.

Appearance of fatigue

Often, fatigue first occurs with the start of the therapy. In case of cancer-related fatigue (CRF) the symptom appears with the chemotherapy or radiation therapy and can continue for several weeks or even months. More women than men suffer from fatigue which could be related to the higher indolence of men due to testosterone.

Distinction

Fatigue as a symptom of a chronic disease has to be differentiated from the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an independent disease which shows headache, a sore throat and muscle pain as well as concentration and memory disorders and insomnia besides the tiredness and exhaustion. Also, a distinction has to be made from burnout, a psychological long-term exhaustion which often leads to psychosomatic syndromes or dependencies.

Diagnosis and therapy

The diagnosis is generally made from the symptoms. The first step in therapy is a comprehensive dialogue with the attending doctor. The integration of family members can be helpful in order to enable them to depict and judge a patient’s state of exhaustion. If physical reasons like anaemia, loss of weight, lack of exercise or hormone disorders cause the fatigue, they are being treated.

Barbara Kliem

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