Persistent fatigue

on 18.1.09 with 0 comments

Here we differentiate a number of causative categories:

  • Active infections: e.g. hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, chronic malaria, kala azar, brucellosis, legionellosis, Q fever, trypanosomiasis, tuberculosis, AIDS. Chronic gastroenteritis and "smoldering malaria" are frequent causes.

  • Post-infection fatigue. The convalescence phase of various infectious diseases, such as mononucleosis, Q-fever, dengue, leptospirosis, hepatitis A, B, C, E, cytomegalovirus infection and toxoplasmosis, are often characterised by persistent asthaenia.

  • Side effects of medications, such as beta-blockers or sedatives. A vacuolating myopathy due to chloroquine can occur after prolonged use of this medicament. Borderline or cryptic myasthaenia gravis can be aggravated by chloroquine. Zidovudine (Retrovir®) can also be associated with myositis and muscle weakness.

  • Sleep apnoea syndrome. The patient’s sleep is profoundly disturbed by repeated attacks of apnoea resulting from intermittent obstruction of the upper airways. Poor quality of sleep will cause pronounced fatigue and drowsiness during the day. A partner’s heavy snoring may be part of the problem. The opinion of an otorhinolaryngologist should be obtained. A polysomnography is necessary.

  • Hypotension with or without salt depletion (sodium / potassium loss due to diarrhoea and prolonged sweating). This is often obvious from case history.

  • Endocrine problems. Bites by a Russell’s viper (India and Southeast Asia) are often complicated by haemorrhages and destruction of the pituitary gland, with panhypopituitarism as a result (comparable with Sheehan syndrome post-partum). Addison syndrome is another complication. This can also occur through the adrenal glands being affected by tuberculosis or by histoplasmosis. Hypo- and hyperthyroidism usually pose no diagnostic problems. Hyperthyroidism due to Basedow's disease can occur through prolonged use of iodine for water disinfection. Certain areas have a high prevalence of goitre, due to iodine deficiency and of the presence of substances in the diet that interfere with iodine uptake (goitrogens, cassava). This is however a problem for the local population and not for the tourist. Diabetes mellitus can of course also cause fatigue.

  • Various organic abnormalities, such as anaemia, autoimmune diseases, neoplastic disorders, organ failure (heart, lung, liver or kidney failure) can result in asthaenia. Substantial hypokalaemia is accompanied by muscle weakness. Neurological diseases such as myasthaenia gravis, Eaton-Lambert syndrome and muscle diseases, including muscular dystrophy and myositis (trichinosis, sarcocystosis, polymyositis) should be considered. Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s syndrome can be accompanied by pronounced fatigue.

  • Psychological problems, such as depression and alcohol abuse. Brucellosis, neurosyphilis and trypanosomiasis can manifest themselves as a depression. Psychic decompensation can be due to culture shock and by the practical problems encountered on long journeys. Some people undertake a long journey as a psychological escape from personal problems in their own country and situation (relationship problems, stress). Confrontation with loneliness and uncertainty in foreign environments can make these problems even worse. Unexpressed fear of infection (e.g. AIDS) or guilt feelings (e.g. sex tourism) can be expressed as fatigue. Side effects of medication such as mefloquine, tend to disappear rather quickly after the offending medication is stopped.

  • The "chronic fatigue syndrome" is a poorly understood entity, without pathognomonic characteristics. It is probably caused by a mixture of different entities.

Category: Medicine Notes



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