Fatigue can mask disease

If you’re over 40 (and who isn’t, these days) and feeling tired all the time, it may be more than just your age acting up. According to the American Society of Internal Medicine, you could have an underlying illness that can be treated if caught early. On the other hand, your retirement could be ruined if you let things go, according to a leading doctor of internal medicine.

“Many fatigued baby boomers are sick and don’t know it,” says Dr. Sandra A. Fryhofer, president of the American Society of Internal Medicine. “We want to tell everyone over 40: Your fatigue could be a wake-up call for a condition we can treat — like thyroid disease, sleep apnea, or mild depression.”

A common culprit often posing as fatigue — especially in women over 50 — is hypothyroidism. It occurs when the thyroid gland at the base of the throat fails to produce enough hormone and metabolism runs low. The symptoms often mimic those of normal aging. An underactive thyroid can lead to weight gain, hair coarsening and high cholesterol. There’s a simple blood test for hypothyroidism, and the College now recommends that women over age 50 be tested. The condition is easily treated with a daily pill tboost hormone levels.

Men with constant fatigue are more likely to have sleep apnea, a condition that is difficult to diagnose. Usually associated with loud snoring, apnea is a chronic upper airway obstruction that occurs during sleep. Sleep is disrupted when sufferers gasp for breath. According to Dr. Fryhofer, untreated sleep apnea can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and even stroke, especially in men under age 60.

Depression is the third condition cited by the doctor as something that could be masked by simple symptoms of fatigue. The upshot? It’s not normal for anyone to be “tired all the time”, so if you are, see your doctor, soon.