What is Fatigue?
Fatigue is a feeling of exhaustion or lethargy. This tiredness exhibits itself as either mental or physical exhaustion. These are two distinct forms of fatigue, although they usually go together. Mental fatigue exhibits itself as failing to concentrate and feeling sleepy, while physical fatigue is failing to perform normal physical activities because of weakness or lack of physical strength.
According to various research studies and the National Institute of Health, about 10% of Americans suffer from severe fatigue which interferes with their normal life. This extreme tiredness seems to affect more women than men. There are a number of causes of fatigue, including the more obvious ones like overwork, lack of sleep, over-exercise and high stress levels. At times, fatigue may indicate a much larger problem like substance abuse, anaemia, diabetes, kidney disease, coronary heart disease, and a number of other conditions.
Menopause and Fatigue
In older women, menopause is usually the main cause of the fatigue. Experts estimate that up to 80% of menopausal women experience this symptom with varying levels of severity. In some instances the fatigue is so bad that a woman is unable to take part in regular activities and spends her time resting instead. Fatigue during menopause can also be aggravated by other menopause symptoms. For example, if a woman has night sweats which break regular sleep patterns, it can cause or aggravate her fatigue. Furthermore, if she experiences insomnia, spending some hours of the night awake because of lack of sleep, it can make her fatigue worse.
What is Crashing Fatigue?
Crashing fatigue is a sudden feeling of overwhelming exhaustion and lower energy levels. This feeling can strike at any time during the day or night. It leaves a woman feeling weak and extremely tired, when a moment before she was working and carrying on with her daily duties.
Symptoms of Crashing Fatigue
Crashing fatigue has distinct symptoms which differentiate it from other types of fatigue, e.g. chronic fatigue syndrome. These symptoms usually follow one after the other in succession.
- Muscle fatigue, where the muscles suddenly feel very tired and weak.
- After eating, where there is exhaustion and lower energy levels, as well as weakness in the body immediately after a meal.
- Drowsiness, where there is a strong urge to sleep that is almost impossible to ignore.
- Lower attention level, where it becomes difficult to pay attention for a length of time. This could be paying attention to a book one is reading, to a presentation or to a task at hand.
- Apathy, where there is a lack of enthusiasm and excitement, where the person feels indifference, especially to things, people and tasks that she previously cared for.
- Irritability, where the person is easily angered or annoyed.
- Memory lapses, where a person easily forgets important details.
Menopause Fatigue Symptoms
The symptoms of fatigue during menopause are similar to the symptoms of chronic fatigue. The main difference is that chronic fatigue does not get better over time even if a woman has enough bed rest. Menopause fatigue symptoms are also linked to other types of menopause symptoms, in most cases increasing the severity of other menopause symptoms. The following is a list of some of the most common menopause fatigue symptoms:
- Feeling exhausted
- A sudden onset of tiredness
- A feeling of fatigue in the muscles
- Lack of concentration
- Crashing feeling after eating
- Decreased wakefulness
- Memory lapses
- Decreased attention
Causes of Menopausal Fatigue
Menopausal fatigue is caused by lower levels of estrogen in the body. These lower levels lead to problems like failing to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, higher stress levels and anxiety. These symptoms tend to aggravate fatigue, making it difficult for a woman to function normally.
Risk Factors for Menopause Fatigue
If a woman experiences menopause fatigue, then she is at risk of experiencing a lower quality of life. It becomes difficult for her to take part in regular activities because of the extreme tiredness that usually comes upon her suddenly. Furthermore, she becomes more irritable and difficult to be around because of the tiredness and lack of sleep. A woman who is fatigued can also easily get hurt because she has a lower attention span. Research studies have also shown that sleeping 6 hours a night places a woman at 14% greater risk of stroke than sleeping 7 hours a night.
How to Deal with Menopause Fatigue?
In order to deal with menopause fatigue, it is important for a woman to have a lifestyle change. As suggested by Doctor Margery Gass, a Professor and Director of the University of Cincinnati’s University Hospital Menopause and Osteoporosis Center, it is important for a woman to stay fit during menopause as this lessens the severity of symptoms and helps a woman feel good about herself. It is also important for a woman to take time for herself, according to Doctor JoAnn Pinkerton, the Midlife Health Center Director and a Professor at the University of Virginia. Dr Pinkerton asserts that women have multiple responsibilities which can easily lead to fatigue.
Diagnosis of Menopause Fatigue
In order to diagnose menopause fatigue, a doctor would determine that a woman is in perimenopause or menopause through the description of symptoms that she gives. Typically menopause fatigue will not be the only symptom that she is experiencing, and regular symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, etc., will be evidence enough of menopause. However, if a woman is much younger than the regular menopause age, a doctor may run tests in order to determine if the fatigue (and the other accompanying symptoms) is as a result of menopause or due to other conditions.
Treatment For Menopausal Fatigue
In order to treat menopausal fatigue, a woman can take medicinal alternatives like hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and other alternative medicines in order to restore the hormonal imbalances in her body. However, this treatment alone may not be effective for menopausal symptoms, and a woman will have to change her lifestyle in order to find a lasting solution. This includes eating healthy, including eating smaller meals for supper. A regular exercise programme will also improve fatigue, especially if the exercise happens earlier in the day.