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HIV and Fatigue

Topic Overview

Feeling tired is common if you have HIV, especially if you have had the virus for many years. Being severely tired can affect your ability to work, take care of yourself, and enjoy your life.

There can be many reasons why you are tired. It is important that you and your doctor try to find the cause. Many of the things that cause fatigue can be treated, and you may feel better.

Your fatigue may be caused by one or more of the following:

  • Having the virus itself
  • Taking HIV medicines
  • Taking other medicines, including those for pain, depression or anxiety, neuropathy, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
  • Being anemic. Anemia is a low level of red blood cells, which carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. As a result, your body's cells do not get enough oxygen, and you feel tired and weak.
  • Having other infections that can happen with HIV. These are called opportunistic infections. HIV weakens your body's defense system, so it has a harder time fighting off illness.
  • Being depressed, anxious, or stressed
  • Being in pain for a long time
  • Having low levels of testosterone or thyroid hormones
  • Not getting enough sleep

Finding the cause of fatigue

Your doctor may want to do some tests to find why you are so tired. You may have one or more of the following:

  • Blood tests for anemia and hormone levels
  • Tests to check your kidneys, liver, and electrolyte levels
  • Chest X-rays and lung function tests
  • Symptom check for depression
  • Review of all medicines to see if they are causing your fatigue
  • Discussion of your sleep and exercise habits

Help for fatigue

Based on your symptoms and test results, you and your doctor can make a plan for treatment. You may need a change in your medicines. If you are anemic or have low hormone levels, your doctor can treat those problems.

Exercise may boost your strength and give you more energy. If you haven't been active at all, talk with your doctor about starting a walking or weight-lifting program. Or find another activity that you like to do. Regular exercise relieves stress. It also keeps your heart, lungs, and muscles strong and helps you feel less tired. It also may help your immune system work better.

Make sure you are getting enough sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, talk with your doctor.

If you are still tired after making changes, you may want to "budget" your energy. Limit some activities to save up energy for those that are important to you.

Avoid illegal drugs, which may cause fatigue or keep you from sleeping.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Shalit, MD, PhD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised April 5, 2012

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