Common Health Problems  »  General Health Conditions


Source: CVS Caremark Health Resources

Being tired due to a busy schedule and lack of sleep is normal. Being fatigued, on the other hand, could be a symptom of a health condition.

Signs & Symptoms

Fatigue is being more than tired. With fatigue, you:

  1. Feel drained of energy and have a very hard time doing normal activities and school work.

  2. Have low motivation and may miss classes often.

  3. Feel inadequate and have little desire for sex.


  1. Lack of sleep for long periods of time.

  2. Burnout and stress.

  3. Crash dieting and eating poorly.

  4. Side effects from allergies.

Health conditions that lead to fatigue include:

  1. Alcohol or drug abuse.

  2. Anemia.

  3. Autoimmune disorders, including thyroid disease, diabetes, and lupus (the systemic type).

  4. Chronic fatigue syndrome. The fatigue lasts at least 6 months.

  5. Depression.

  6. Hepatitis.

  7. HIV/AIDS.

Self-Care / Prevention

  1. Be organized. Use a daily/weekly/monthly planner to keep abreast of everything you need to do. Prioritize daily tasks, semester goals, etc. Make sure to plan time for exercise, eating, recreation, and sleep. Contact your student Mental Health Service or your academic counselor if you need help or feel overwhelmed.

  2. Take only the number of semester credits you can handle.

  3. Don’t overextend yourself in extracurricular activities.

  4. Eat well. Eating too much and “crash dieting” are both hard on your body. Don’t skip breakfast. Limit high-fat and/or rich, sugary snacks. Eat whole-grain breads and cereals and raw fruits and vegetables. Keep healthy snacks or meal replacement bars in your backpack to eat when you don’t have time to have a meal.

  5. Get regular physical exercise. Use your school’s fitness facilities and/or participate in organized sports, etc.

  6. Do something for yourself. Do things that also meet your needs, not just those of others.

  7. Avoid too much caffeine and alcohol. Don’t abuse drugs. Don’t use over-the-counter diet pills and stay awake pills (e.g., No-Doz). Repeated use of these can make you anxious, jittery, and unable to sleep.

  8. If fatigue is due to a medical condition, follow your health care provider’s guidelines regarding rest, diet, medication, etc.

  9. Set up good sleep habits.

Questions to Ask

With debilitating fatigue, do you have signs and symptoms of infectious mononucleosis listed on the left?

With fatigue, do you also have these signs and symptoms of hepatitis?

  1. The whites of your eyes and/or skin looks yellow (jaundice).

  2. Dark-colored urine.

  3. Vomiting and nausea.

  4. Loss of weight or appetite.

  5. Pain in the abdomen.

  6. Fever.

  7. Stools are pale and clay-colored.

{Note: With some forms of hepatitis, no symptoms are present.}

With fatigue and weakness, do you have any of the following signs of diabetes?

  1. Constant urination.

  2. Abnormally increased thirst and increased hunger.

  3. Rapid weight loss or excessive weight gain.

  4. Extreme irritability.

  5. Nausea and vomiting.

  6. Drowsiness.

  7. Itching and/or skin infections that don’t clear up easily.

  8. Tingling, numbness, or pain in the arms and legs.

  9. Blurred vision.

With fatigue that comes on suddenly, do you have signs & symptoms of the flu?

Mononucleosis (“Mono”)

A common cause of fatigue in students is infectious mononucleosis, an acute viral disease.

Signs & Symptoms

  1. Fatigue.

  2. Fever.

  3. Sore throat.

  4. Swollen lymph gland in the neck area.

  5. Pain in the upper left abdominal area.

Symptoms usually last several weeks.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This is spread from person to person through contact with saliva from a person recently infected with the disease. The saliva can be picked up from hand-to-hand contact, sharing eating utensils, and kissing, which is why “Mono” is called the “kissing disease.” Symptoms usually appear about 4 to 6 weeks after exposure.


Rest is the mainstay of treatment. Avoiding heavy lifting and contact sports is necessary, because there is a risk of rupturing the spleen with “Mono.”

With fatigue, do you have signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

  1. Hair loss and dry, thick, flaky skin.

  2. Decreased tolerance to cold temperatures and numbness or tingling in the hands.

  3. Unexplained weight gain.

  4. Constipation.

  5. Sleepiness; feeling mentally sluggish.

  6. For females, longer and heavier menstrual periods.

With fatigue, do you have other signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis?

  1. Blurred vision, double vision, or the loss of vision in one eye.

  2. Bladder problems (frequent urination, urgency, infection, as well as incontinence).

  3. Feelings of pins and needles in the limbs.

  4. Muscle spasms.

  5. Leg stiffness. Unsteady gait.

  6. Poor coordination.

  7. Emotional mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, euphoria.

With fatigue, do you have any of these signs and symptoms of lupus?

  1. Joint pain for more than 3 months.

  2. Fingers that get pale, numb, or uncomfortable in the cold.

  3. Mouth sores for more than 2 weeks.

  4. Low blood counts from anemia, low white-cell count, or low platelet count.

  5. A butterfly-shaped rash on your cheeks for more than 1 month.

  6. Skin rash (raised patches with scaling) after being in the sun.

  7. Pain for more than 2 days when taking deep breaths.

With fatigue and weakness, do you have signs and symptoms of anemia?

  1. Shortness of breath with exertion.

  2. Paleness of the skin or paleness around the gums, nail beds, and/or linings of the lower eyelids.

  3. Headache.

With fatigue, do you have other signs and symptoms of depression?

With debilitating fatigue, do you have signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia?

  1. Muscle pain for more than 2 weeks.

  2. Flu-like symptoms. (See signs & symptoms of the flu.)

  3. Insomnia.

  4. Mental fogginess.

  5. Headache.

Are any of the following linked with the fatigue?

  1. It occurred for no apparent reason, lasted for more than 2 weeks, and has kept you from doing your usual activities.

  2. The fatigue started after taking medicine.

  3. For a female, the fatigue hits hard right before or after each monthly menstrual period.

  4. Pregnancy is a possibility.