Why does diabetes cause fatigue?

How can a diabetic get energy?

82 / 100

How can a diabetic get energy?

Fatigue is a common symptom of diabetes and can result from high blood sugar levels and other symptoms and complications of the condition. Some lifestyle changes can help a person manage diabetes fatigue.

Fatigue and tiredness are not the same. When a person is tired, they usually feel better after resting. When a person has persistent fatigue, rest may not relieve feelings of exhaustion and lethargy.

According to the American Diabetes Association, research shows that 61 percent of people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes report fatigue as a symptom. The same study found that fatigue is the second most common symptom in this group.

In this article, we look at the links between diabetes and fatigue. We also provide advice on how to manage this potentially disruptive symptom.

Why does diabetes cause fatigue?

Fatigue is a common symptom of diabetes. There are many reasons why diabetes can cause fatigue, including:

  • changes in blood sugar levels
  • other diabetes symptoms
  • complications of diabetes
  • mental and emotional issues resulting from diabetes
  • being overweight

Changes in blood sugar levels

Diabetes affects the way the body regulates and uses blood sugar.

When a person eats, the body breaks down food into simple sugars, or glucose. In people with diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the body does not use insulin effectively. Cells need insulin to absorb glucose from the blood.

If the cells do not take in enough glucose, it can build up in the blood. The cells need glucose to provide energy.

Fatigue and weakness might result when the cells do not get enough glucose. Diabetes medications, such as insulin or metformin, help more of this sugar to move into the cells and prevent it from building to harmful levels in the blood.

A potential side effect of diabetes medications is low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.

Low blood sugar can also cause fatigue, especially in people who do not get enough warning that their blood sugars levels are dropping. A person can also feel fatigued after treatment of low blood sugar.

Other diabetes symptoms

Other symptoms of diabetes can also contribute to a person experiencing fatigue, including:

  • frequent urination
  • excessive thirst
  • extreme hunger despite eating
  • unexplained weight loss
  • blurred vision

While not all of those symptoms account for feelings of fatigue directly, many of them may contribute to an overall feeling of being unwell. These persistent and uncomfortable sensations may have severe mental and physical effects that can lead to the development of fatigue.

Some of the symptoms of diabetes might also disrupt a person’s sleep pattern. For example, a person with the condition may find themselves waking up several times every night to use the bathroom or get a drink.

Similarly, discomfort in the limbs, hands, and feet may make it difficult for a person with diabetes to fall asleep and stay asleep.

This disruption to a person’s sleep cycle can lead to them feeling increasing fatigue.

Diabetes complications

People with diabetes might develop complications that contribute to feelings of fatigue.

These complications typically develop in a person who has the condition when their blood sugar levels remain too high.

Possible complications include:

  • kidney problems, including kidney failure
  • frequent infections
  • heart disease
  • nerve damage, also known as diabetic neuropathy

Adverse effects of diabetes medication

Certain medications that a person might use to treat the complications of diabetes and other health problems may also cause adverse effects that contribute to fatigue.

Medications that can lead to fatigue include the followingTrusted Source:

Corticosteroids: A person with diabetes might need to take corticosteroids, such as prednisone, to treat the inflammation, pain, and discomfort that develop due to other conditions and diseases.

  • Statins: A doctor might prescribe statins to reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, in the blood.
  • Diuretics: People mainly use diuretics to treat high blood pressure. These lead people to pass more urine than they normally would.
  • Diabetes sometimes increases urinary frequency, so this side effect can be particularly potent for people who have the condition.
  • Beta blockers: Doctors recommend beta blockers for people who have high blood pressure and anxiety. However, their slowing effect on a person’s heart rate might lead to chronic fatigue as an adverse effect.

Alongside the diabetes symptoms that contribute to fatigue, beta blockers can have particularly potent side effects in people who have diabetes.

Mental and emotional health

Living with diabetes can often impact a person’s mental and emotional health.

According to a 2016 studyTrusted Source of 90,686 participants, people with diabetes may be around two to three times more likely to experience depression than people who do not have the condition.

The same study found that anxiety was more prevalent in people who were aware they had diabetes due to their health concerns.

Both depression and anxiety can also cause increased feelings of fatigue due to sleep disruption.

Depression can also adversely affect blood sugar control, which may increase the risk of fatigue.

In fact, many of the symptoms of depression relate directly to fatigue, including:

  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • waking too early or being unable to go back to sleep
  • loss of energy

Being overweight

Many people with diabetes, especially those with type 2 diabetes, are overweight or obese. Excess body weight might also contribute to fatigue.

Reasons for the association between being overweight and fatigue may include:

  • Lifestyle choices that may lead to weight gains, such as lack of exercise or a diet that contains too much processed or junk food.
  • The increased energy a person uses up when moving the extra body weight.
  • Sleep disruption from some complications of being overweight, such as sleep apnea.

Back to top button