What causes lack of energy?

Lack of energy can be a normal response to inadequate sleep, overexertion, overworking, stress, lack of exercise, or boredom. When part of a normal response, lack of energy often resolves with rest, adequate sleep, stress management, and good nutrition. Persistent lack of energy that does not resolve with self-care may be due to a variety of diseases, disorders or conditions.

Heart and lung-related causes of lack of energy

Lack of energy may be caused by heart and lung problems including:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis)
  • Coronary artery disease (plaque buildup in the walls of the coronary arteries)
  • Congestive heart failure (deterioration of the heart’s ability to pump blood)
  • Heart valve disease
  • Pneumonia

Psychosocial and neurological causes of lack of energy

Lack of energy may be caused by psychosocial or neurological conditions including:

  • Alcohol use
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Drug abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief
  • Overwork
  • Work shift changes

Other causes of lack of energy

Lack of energy can also be caused by diseases, disorders or conditions including:

Serious or life-threatening causes of lack of energy

In some cases, lack of energy may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Acute decompensated heart failure (rapid deterioration of the heart’s ability to pump blood)
  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)
  • Drug overdose
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Hemorrhage or internal bleeding
  • Severe depression
  • Severe infection
  • Trauma

Questions for diagnosing the cause of lack of energy

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your lack of energy including:

  • When did you first notice your lack of energy?
  • Are you getting sufficient sleep?
  • How often is lack of energy affecting you?
  • Do you have any stress in your life?
  • How is your mood?
  • What is your schedule like?
  • What is your diet like?
  • What kind of exercise do you get?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • Do you drink any alcohol or use any illicit drugs?

What are the potential complications of lack of energy?

Because lack of energy can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Disability
  • Isolation
  • Progressive heart, lung, liver or kidney disease
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection

References:

Fatigue. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003088.htm. Accessed May 21, 2011.

Depression. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003213.htm. Accessed May 21, 2011.

INTRODUCTION

What is lack of energy?

Lack of energy can be described as tiredness, weariness, lethargy or fatigue. It can be accompanied by depression, decreased motivation, or apathy. Lack of energy can be a normal response to inadequate sleep, overexertion, overworking, stress, lack of exercise, or boredom. When part of a normal response, lack of ener... Read more about lack of energyintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with lack of energy?

Lack of energy may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Lack of energy is a nonspecific symptom, so identifying other symptoms may be helpful in determining its cause.... Read more about lack of energysymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.