Is Fatigue due to My COPD? I feel Tired Most of the Time

I Have Fatigue Almost Every Day

Dr. Mahler:

I am 57 years old and feel fatigue and tired every single day. Although I have had shortness of breath for some time, my COPD was diagnosed four years ago before my hip replacement surgery. I take Advair and Spiriva daily and might use ProAir 1-2 times a day depending on activities. I work as a teacher’s assistant for 2nd graders, and am married to a supportive husband. The physician’s assistant whom I see doesn’t seem that interested. He simply says to stay active. Can my tiredness be due to my COPD or could it be due to something else?

Charlotte from Daytona, FL

Dear Charlotte,

Fatigue is a term used to to describe the general overall feeling of tiredness an a lack of energy. It is a common complaint and may be due to either a medical or psychological problem. Possible medical problems include a low number of red blood cells (anemia), an under active thyroid (hypothyroidism), an active infection, a sleep problem like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Anxiety and depression may also cause someone to feel tired.

A recent study evaluated factors associated with feelings of fatigue in 101 individuals with COPD and 34 healthy adults. The study was published in the October 2016 issue of Therapeutic Advances in Respiratory Disease (volume 10; pages 410-424).

Woman with fatigue

Woman with fatigue

Fatigue was more common in those with COPD (72%) compared with healthy individuals (56%). In general, those with COPD who had fatigue reported more shortness of breath with activities, had more anxiety and depression symptoms, and experienced worse quality of life compared with COPD patients who did not report feeling fatigued. Insomnia was also common in those who noted tiredness.

Charlotte – I suggest that you make an appointment with your health care provider to discuss your feelings of fatigue and tiredness. Ask to be tested for anemia, hypothyroidism, and an active infection. If these test are normal, then I suggest that you explore whether you have sleep difficulties, anxiety, or depression that might be contributing to your lack of energy.

I hope that this information is helpful. Best wishes,

Donald A. Mahler, M.D.