Diagnosing fatigue

December 9, 2008 6:18:00 AM PST
Many people who think they are just tired are suffering from a more serious illness.After 30 years of driving a taxi, Stephen Belcher was feeling exhausted.

"I just thought I was just tired and maybe, that if I get a good night's sleep on the weekend, I'll feel better," he said.

But it didn't help.

It turned out Stephen was more than just tired, he was suffering from fatigue.

"Most of the times, you know why you're tired, and the tiredness goes away with rest and sleep," Dr. Susmita Parashar said. "Fatigue, on the other hand, is a persistent, daily lack of energy impairing your ability to do normal activities."

Dr. Parashar says fatigue shouldn't be a ignored. It can be a symptom of something more serious, like anemia, an underactive thyroid, depression, heart disease and cancer. In Stephen's case, he was diagnosed with sleep apnea, emphysema and a heart blockage.

"If he hadn't come to the hospital, it would be a fatal condition," Dr. Parashar said. "So he really saved his life."

Stephen is being treated for his medical problems and says he's back to feeling more like his healthier self, now that he's not so tired all the time.

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