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HIV and Fatigue

Overview

Feeling tired is common if you have HIV, more so if you've had the virus for many years. But many of the things that cause fatigue can be treated, and you may feel better.

Fatigue may be caused by one or more of the following:

  • Having the virus itself.
  • Taking HIV medicines.
  • Taking other medicines. This includes 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 to the other cells of your body. As a result, these cells don't get enough oxygen, and you feel tired and weak.
  • Having other infections that can happen with HIV. 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

When you have fatigue due to HIV, 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

Current as of: July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Peter Shalit MD, PhD - Internal Medicine