Dr. Karin Olson, a U of A professor from the Faculty of Nursing, argues that there are differences between tiredness, fatigue and exhaustion and that recognizing those distinctions will help health-care workers create better treatment plans for their patients. Her findings are published in the current issue of "Oncology Nursing Forum."
Olson has studied fatigue in six ill and non-ill populations: shift workers, recreational long distance runners, individuals with cancer in active treatment or palliative settings, and individuals diagnosed with depression or chronic fatigue syndrome. Having worked with cancer patients for many years, she saw how serious fatigue was and the impact it had on the patients' quality of life. Some patients even withdrew for a potentially curative treatment saying they were "too tired."
"The kind of fatigue experienced by individuals with cancer is different from the feeling that you or I have at the end of a busy week," said Olson. "Interestingly, when you start looking at other populations, such as people with chronic illnesses or shift workers and take a broad view, the descriptions of fatigue are the same. Thus, while the reasons for fatigue may vary, the kinds of adaptations required may not."
Olson, who is currently an Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) Health Scholar, has created new definitions for tiredness, fatigue and exhaustion and argues that they represent various points on an energy continuum. The amount of energy a person has influences how easily he can adapt to stress that comes his way. Individuals who are tired still have a fair bit of energy, so although they may feel forgetful, and impatient, and experience gradual heaviness or weakness in muscles following work, this is often alleviated by rest. Fatigue, on the other hand, is characterized by difficulty concentrating, anxiety, a gradual decrease in stamina, difficulty sleeping, increased sensitivity to light and the limiting of social activities once viewed as important. Individuals with exhaustion report frank confusion that resembles delirium, emotional numbness, sudden loss of energy, difficulty both in staying awake and in sleeping and complete social withdrawal.
"It is important to recognize the difference between tiredness and fatigue, because fatigue is a marker that the body is not able to keep up," says Olson. "The onset of the manifestations of fatigue, particularly if these are not normal states for you, should be taken seriously."
Failing to understand the distinctions between tiredness, fatigue and exhaustion could result in the use of inappropriate interventions that inadvertently promote fatigue and exhaustion. Olson has some evidence that while exercise appears to help those who are tired, it may decrease the ability to adapt in individuals experiencing fatigue and exhaustion. Long-term use of caffeine and other stimulants should also be avoided by people experiencing fatigue and exhaustion, as these substances "fool" the body into thinking it has more energy available than it really does.
"The important thing is to try to prevent or at least delay the progression from tiredness to fatigue and then from fatigue to exhaustion," said Olson. "We are starting to work on some interventions that we think may be helpful. In the meantime, families and friends can help by recognizing changes consistent with fatigue and exhaustion and look for ways to help minimize stress."
This work may also have applications to other population, such as students or individuals with chronic illnesses, who have not been studied to date. "Students tend to stay up late at night, studying hard," said Olson. "Some studies show that changes in sleep patterns are may compromise one's ability to remember things and to integrate new information.
"We're a long way from having all the answers but this study was a start. It has provided us with a great foundation for future research among individuals with cancer and other groups ranging from ‘burned out' workers to recreational athletes and people with chronic diseases."
Phoebe Dey | alfa
Collagen nanofibrils in mammalian tissues get stronger with exercise
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering
New discoveries predict ability to forecast dementia from single molecule
12.12.2018 | UT Southwestern Medical Center
Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.
Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences