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Fatigue FAQs

Although it is common, fatigue can be one of the more frustrating symptoms of menopause. It can negatively impact many aspects of a woman's personal and professional life, and it can even take its toll on her overall health. Fortunately, by better understanding fatigue, women can treat this symptom and take back their lives.

Continue reading to learn the answers to the most frequently asked questions about fatigue, including what fatigue is, what the symptoms are, what the causes are, and how to treat it.

Q: What Is Fatigue?

A: Fatigue refers to an ongoing and persistent feeling of weakness, tiredness, or lack of energy. This should be distinguished from drowsiness, which implies an urge to sleep.

Q: Is Fatigue Normal during Menopause?

A: Due to fluctuating hormone levels in menopausal women, fatigue affects a high percentage of the population. Taking into account other symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats and insomnia, it is no wonder that fatigue is so common.

Q: What Are the Symptoms of Fatigue?

A: Fatigue can be distinguished by a variety of characteristics, both mental and physical. Often, these symptoms can be experienced simultaneously or in any combination.

Physical Characteristics

  • Fatigue after eating
  • Sudden fatigue
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Drowsiness

Psychological Characteristics

  • Decreased wakefulness
  • Decreased attention span
  • Apathy
  • Irritability
  • Memory lapses
  • Trouble concentrating

Q: What Causes Fatigue?

A: For women in the menopausal transition, the most likely cause of fatigue is the fluctuation in hormones that occurs naturally at this time. Sex hormones are responsible in part for regulating sleep cycles and metabolism, so when levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease, energy levels typically do as well.

Less commonly, there are several medical conditions that are liable to cause fatigue. Keep reading to learn more about these other conditions.

Q: Can other Medical Conditions Cause Fatigue?

A: While most menopausal women experience chronic fatigue due to hormone fluctuations, there are certain other conditions that are capable of causing fatigue as well. If other symptoms are experienced in conjunction with fatigue, consulting a trusted medical professional is recommended.

Fatigue-causing Diseases

  • Anemia
  • Celiac disease
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Heart disease
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Glandular fever (mononucleosis)
  • Obesity

Q: How Can Fatigue Be Managed during Menopause?

A: Fatigue can be one of the more frustrating symptoms of menopause, as it is a symptom that affects both the body and the mind and carries over into a woman's daily life. Fortunately, there are many different treatment options available for managing fatigue.

Fatigue-fighting Tips

  • Eat regularly
  • Avoid starch-based meals
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Take magnesium and iron supplements
  • Breathe deeply
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Exercise

Often, with a few simple lifestyle adjustments, symptoms of fatigue that occur during menopause can be alleviated. Changes in diet and exercise - along with stress reducing techniques and a proper sleep schedule - can make a huge difference on how frequently fatigue is experienced.

Q: What Treatment Is Available for Fatigue?

A: Fortunately, fatigue is not a condition that women have to live with permanently. As the main cause of menopausal fatigue is hormone fluctuations, the safest and most effective treatment is to go directly to the source with herbal supplements.

For more severe cases, it may be necessary to visit a healthcare professional. Keep reading to learn more about when it's best to talk to a doctor.

Q: When Should a Woman Contact Her Doctor?

A: In certain cases, fatigue can be a sign of a more serious condition. If a woman is experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be necessary to see a doctor.

  • Confusion or dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Little to no urine output
  • Recent swelling and weight gain
  • Ongoing, unexplained weakness
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin or intolerance to cold
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

Q: What Are the Best Ways to Cope with Fatigue?

A: Three approaches can be considered for treating fatigue: (1) lifestyle changes, (2) alternative remedies, and (3) medications. Most experts recommend that women begin with the least aggressive approach and move to the next level of treatment only if symptoms persist. Click on treatments for fatigue to discover the best route to relief.

Fatigue and Premenstrual Syndrome: The Link

Premenstrual syndrome is defined as a group of symptoms - including headaches, fatigue, bloating, and cramping - one to two weeks before a menstrual period begins. Approximately three out of four women experience PMS symptoms, and they can range from mild to severe. Keep reading to learn more about PMS and fatigue.

Extreme Fatigue After Eating

Extreme fatigue after eating is seen by some as normal, but in fact, the body should not need to shut down after a meal. Fatigue after eating is normally an indicator of an undesirable lifestyle factor or a more serious condition. This article discusses some of the reasons you might be feeling tired after eating.

Sources:
  • Andersen, M.L. (2006). Effects of progesterone on sleep: a possible pharmacological treatment for sleep-breathing disorders? Current Medicinal Chemistry, 13(29), 3575-3582. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17168724
  • National Health Service UK. (2015). Chronic fatigue syndrome. Retrieved May 3, 2016, from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Chronic-fatigue-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  • Office on Women's Health. (2014). Chronic fatigue syndrome fact sheet. Retrieved May 3, 2016, from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/chronic-fatigue-syndrome.html
  • Santin, A.P. & Furlanetto, T.W. (2011). Role of Estrogen in Thyroid Function and Growth Regulation. Journal of Thyroid Research, 875125. doi: 10.4061/2011/875125
  • Schwartz, M.D. & Mong, J.A. (2013). Estradiol modulates recovery of REM sleep in a time-of-day-dependent manner. American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 305(3), R271-280. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00474.2012