HIV and Fatigue

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Feeling tired is common when you have HIV. But many of the things that cause fatigue can be treated to help you feel better.

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

  • Being depressed, anxious, or stressed.
  • Not getting enough sleep.
  • Not taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) or missing doses of ART.
  • Having the virus itself.
  • Taking other medicines that cause fatigue. These include medicines for pain, depression or anxiety, neuropathy, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
  • Having anemia. 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 in pain for a long time.
  • Having low levels of testosterone or thyroid hormones.

Finding the cause of fatigue

When you have fatigue due to HIV, your doctor may want to do some tests to find out why you are so tired. Your doctor may do one or more of the following:

  • Ask about your mood, stress level, sleep quality, and exercise.
  • Find out if you are missing doses of your antiretroviral therapy (ART) or need to start ART.
  • Do tests. You may have blood tests for anemia and hormone levels and tests to check your kidneys, liver, and electrolyte levels.
  • Review all of your medicines to see if they're causing your fatigue.
  • Do chest X-rays and lung function tests.

Help for fatigue

Based on your symptoms and test results, you and your doctor can make a plan for treating fatigue. 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 alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs, which may cause fatigue or keep you from sleeping. If you need help to do this, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you decide what type of treatment might help you.


Current as of: June 12, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.