Weakness : Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Last Updated: 18/09/2022

Weakness is a subjectively painful feeling of lack of energy, lack of strength for physical activity. The state of impotence is often accompanied by dizziness, fatigue and heaviness in the legs. Severe weakness occurs with food poisoning and endogenous intoxication, vitamin deficiency, endocrine and cardiovascular diseases. To determine the cause of the disorder, bacteriological tests, ultrasound examination, ECG, neurological examination are carried out, various functional tests are used. In order to eliminate asthenic syndrome, methods of physiotherapy, exercise therapy, vitamin preparations and adaptogens are used.

Causes of Weakness

Wrong daily routine

The natural causes of weakness are non-compliance with the daily routine, work seven days a week for 10-12 hours a day. Malaise is more often observed in people of middle and older age, whose body is more difficult to adapt to overload. Fatigue occurs in the late afternoon after a hard day's work: there is general weakness, drowsiness, heaviness in the muscles of the legs and arms. The condition is aggravated with a lack of night sleep, in which case discomfort and impotence persist even in the morning. Similar symptoms occur in people who have to work night shifts.


With a lack of fluid, the work of the heart muscle is disturbed, the vascular tone changes, the blood circulation of the brain worsens, which is why a general malaise develops. Fluid loss up to 5% of body weight only slightly worsens the general condition: dry mouth, weakness in the legs, poor exercise tolerance. Massive dehydration is caused by pathological causes: bleeding, generalized hyperhidrosis. At the same time, weakness, dizziness and darkening of the eyes are observed, in the most severe cases, the patient cannot move his arms and legs.


For well-coordinated work, the body needs all the trace elements and vitamins, and the first sign of a vitamin deficiency is a non-specific malaise. Most often, the symptoms are due to a lack of vitamin B12, which is involved in the process of hematopoiesis. With hypovitaminosis B12, there is a sharp weakness, intolerance to physical labor, a typical flickering of "flies" before the eyes and frequent dizziness. The appearance of the patient changes: the skin becomes pale, the tongue becomes bright red, shiny, the nasolabial triangle turns blue.

With a deficiency of vitamin D, severe weakness in the muscles mainly develops, when you try to play sports or even fast walking, muscle tremors appear. This cause of malaise is characterized by an increase in symptoms in the autumn-winter period, when the daylight hours are short, and the production of cholecalciferol in the skin under the influence of ultraviolet radiation does not cover the body's needs for the vitamin. Fatigue and impotence are accompanied by body aches, joint pain. If you have these symptoms, you should visit a doctor.



After the diarrhea and vomiting stop, toxic compounds circulate in the bloodstream, which are normally excreted through the gastrointestinal tract. Weakness after poisoning persists from several days to a week, since the harmful substances remaining in the body are excreted extremely slowly. Nonspecific symptoms are observed, it is difficult for a person to perform their usual work, fatigue occurs after physical exertion. Characterized by dizziness and dull pressing pains in the head. If it is not possible to recover from poisoning within a week, you should consult a doctor.


With systemic allergic reactions to food, plant pollen or animal hair, a large amount of histamine and other active substances are released into the bloodstream. They affect the walls of blood vessels, cause a sharp drop in blood pressure, which is manifested by sudden weakness up to a short faint. A slight malaise persists throughout the entire time of the allergen, the symptom is often combined with rhinitis, lacrimation, and sore throat.

Vegetative-vascular disorders

The clinical picture of VVD is more common in young people in whom the processes of autonomic nervous regulation are not sufficiently balanced. The appearance of weakness is associated with impaired interaction between the central nervous system and peripheral nerves, a decrease in vascular tone and circulatory pathology. Fatigue and malaise are aggravated by stress, malnutrition, and physical overwork. Periodic dizziness, attacks of weakness in the legs, hyperhidrosis, pre-syncope are characteristic.

Diseases of the cardiovascular system

Causes from the side of the heart cause a decrease in effective blood flow and a lack of oxygen in the most important internal organs. There is a pronounced weakness, which is aggravated by physical exertion. Worried about severe shortness of breath, interruptions in heart rate and a feeling of "fading heart". A similar condition in combination with high body temperature is observed with myocarditis and endocarditis. If, against the background of severe weakness, compressive pains in the heart appear with irradiation to the arm, it is necessary to exclude an attack of angina pectoris or an incipient myocardial infarction.

Endocrine pathology

The feeling of weakness in the muscles, when everything literally “falls out of hand”, is characteristic of hypothyroidism. With a lack of thyroid hormones, the basal metabolism slows down, the mental and emotional state is disturbed, which is manifested by depression and apathy for no apparent reason. The malaise, accompanied by severe headaches, thirst and polyuria, indicates the development of diabetes mellitus. Severe weakness with muscle tremors and attacks of aggression is one of the signs of hypoglycemia due to improper selection of insulin therapy.

Liver disease

Asthenovegetative syndrome is the first manifestation of any hepatic pathology. Symptoms increase gradually, first there is increased fatigue after a working day, concentration of attention and thinking is difficult. Then the weakness persists constantly, patients refuse their usual physical activity or sports. With fast walking or slight exertion, shortness of breath, dizziness worries. The reasons that cause such a clinical picture:

  • Hepatitis : viral, toxic, autoimmune.
  • Infiltrative processes : fatty degeneration of the liver, glycogenosis, amyloidosis.
  • Vascular damage: portal hypertension, hepatic vein thrombosis, pylephlebitis.
  • Hepatobiliary diseases : cholangitis, bile duct strictures, cholestasis of pregnancy.

Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract

During inflammatory or dystrophic processes, the intestinal microflora is disturbed, as a result of which a large amount of harmful substances accumulate in the body, causing endogenous intoxication. The situation is aggravated due to insufficient absorption of useful food components in the small intestine. Patients feel constant severe weakness, heaviness in the arms and legs, it becomes difficult for them to cope with their usual work. Disturbed by periodic pressing headaches and dizziness, nausea, lack of appetite. The main gastroenterological causes of weakness:

  • Chronic inflammation : hypoacid gastritis, duodenitis, enteritis.
  • Functional disorders : esophageal dyskinesia, dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Malabsorption syndrome .


The depressive state is characterized by a variety of complaints: fatigue and weakness, constant muscle weakness up to the inability to move an arm or leg, loss of interest in work and hobbies. In difficult situations, a person lies on the bed motionless for days on end, sleeping 14-16 hours a day. Often, weakness in depression is accompanied by somatic disorders: lack of appetite, constipation, diffuse headaches and abdominal discomfort. Increased malaise occurs after stress, conflicts with relatives or friends.

neurological problems

Disorders of the peripheral nerves (plexitis, neuritis, polyneuropathy) cause severe weakness in individual muscle groups or in the entire limb. At the same time, active movements are significantly limited, while passive ones remain normal. If peripheral neuropathies are combined with disorders in the central nervous system, there is a general malaise, apathy, frequent dizziness and darkening in the eyes. Along with subjective symptoms, a slight trembling is felt in the affected muscles, the skin over them turns pale and thinner.


All oncological causes cause severe intoxication of the body with the decay products of cancer cells, to which the structures of the brain and internal organs react sharply. Patients feel severe weakness and fatigue, not associated with physical exertion. The malaise does not disappear even after a long night's sleep, on the contrary, in the mornings, weakness and headaches bother. Cancer intoxication leads to loss of appetite, aching all over the body, prolonged subfebrile temperature. Symptoms persist for several months.

Complications of pharmacotherapy

Most often, weakness develops after the use of psychotropic drugs - sedatives, tranquilizers and antipsychotics. Means selectively inhibit the work of brain structures, increase the threshold of excitability of neurons, as a result of which the malaise is accompanied by indifference to what is happening around. Symptoms also occur with the use of antihypertensive drugs, especially beta-blockers. Weakness is due to a decrease in cardiac output and a change in the circulation of vital organs.

Rare Causes

  • Kidney disease : chronic glomerulonephritis and pyelonephritis, the initial stage of renal failure.
  • Postoperative period .
  • Brain damage : severe TBI, meningitis and encephalitis, degenerative processes (Pick's disease, dyscirculatory encephalopathy).
  • Respiratory tract diseases : COPD, bronchial asthma, pneumonia in the period of convalescence.


The primary examination is carried out by a general practitioner. The initial diagnostic stage consists in a detailed collection of all complaints, a history of the development of the disease, on the basis of which the presence of a certain pathology or risk factor is assumed. Then, based on complaints, special laboratory and instrumental methods are prescribed, which allow us to confirm the probable causes of weakness. The most informative are:

  • Neurological examination . To study the work of the nervous system, cognitive functions are examined, the time of appearance of dermographism is measured. Specific tests (orthostatic and Danini-Ashner) reveal discoordination of sympathetic and parasympathetic regulation. The functional activity of the brain is specified using the EEG.
  • Blood tests . In the general blood test, indicators of leukocytosis, hemoglobin and red blood cells are determined. A biochemical study is performed to evaluate liver function, detect signs of an inflammatory process or residual electrolyte disturbances. The content of free T3 and T4 in the blood is necessarily taken into account, an analysis is made for fasting glucose.
  • Coprogram . If weakness arose after symptoms of poisoning, it is necessary to do a microscopic examination of feces and inoculation of the material on nutrient media in order to detect pathogenic microorganisms. With prolonged dyspepsia for no apparent reason and malabsorption syndrome, fecal masses are examined for the level of fecal elastase and H. pylori specific antigen.
  • Ultrasound examination . If there are complaints from the digestive system, a survey ultrasound of the abdominal organs, retroperitoneal space is performed. In women, the pelvic organs are additionally visualized. If there are signs of a pathological process, more informative examinations are recommended - endoscopy, X-ray of the intestine using a contrast agent.
  • EKG . In middle-aged and elderly patients, an electrocardiogram must be recorded in standard leads and with a load. For a detailed examination of the heart, 24-hour Holter monitoring is effective. To examine the anatomical features of the heart, to identify signs of valve damage, echocardiography with vascular Doppler is performed.
  • Additional Methods . To study the respiratory system, a chest x-ray is taken. Spirography helps to assess the function of external respiration. If the weakness is due to a lack of thyroid hormones, a thyroid scintigraphy with iodine is indicated to diagnose an organic lesion. MRI and CT of the brain will rule out inflammation and degenerative changes.


Help before diagnosis

If the weakness is caused by natural causes, it is enough to normalize the lifestyle. Patients are advised to get a full night's sleep for at least 7 hours, avoid night shifts at work, and minimize stressful situations and conflicts. A change of scenery helps to cope with fatigue - a trip to a sanatorium, a vacation at sea. It is important to provide a nutritious diet high in protein foods, fresh vegetables and fruits. A complete exclusion of alcohol is desirable. With prolonged weakness, combined with other symptoms, the doctor selects the treatment.

Normalization of lifestyle is the first step towards combating the breakdown


Conservative therapy

The main thing in the treatment of general malaise is therapy aimed at eliminating the cause of the onset of symptoms: taking antihistamines for allergic reactions, cardiotropic drugs for cardiovascular diseases, hepatoprotectors for liver damage. With weakness after food poisoning, a diet is recommended with the exception of spicy and smoked meats, extractives. Symptomatic drugs are used that improve overall well-being and restore performance. The most effective are:

  • Adaptogens . Concentrated plant extracts of ginseng, eleutherococcus and other medicinal plants tone and invigorate, increase the activity of metabolic processes. Medicines are taken for a long time, they have practically no contraindications and side effects.
  • Nootropics . The drugs stimulate blood circulation in the brain and ensure the delivery of nutrients to neurons. Nootropics improve cognitive functions of the brain, increase memory and concentration. Means are used for encephalopathy, the consequences of TBI and encephalitis.
  • Antidepressants . Specific serotonin receptor agonists as etiotropic therapy help with depressive disorders. In minimal doses, they are indicated for chronic fatigue and malaise caused by severe diseases of the internal organs and endocrine glands.
  • Vitamins . In case of peripheral neuropathies and other neurological disorders, vitamins of group B are prescribed. To improve general well-being and normalize metabolism, ascorbic acid, the antioxidant tocopherol, are used. Vitamin preparations are combined with the most important trace elements.
  • Sorbents. Activated charcoal preparations are effective for ailments caused by poisoning. Means bind and remove toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. With severe intoxication, parenteral administration of infusion saline solutions is necessary.


To reduce weakness, various methods of hydrotherapy (Charcot's shower, contrast shower) are useful, which have a tonic and tonic effect. A similar effect is observed after the use of acupuncture and electromagnetic therapy. To improve muscle tone and endurance, a general massage is prescribed, an individual exercise therapy complex is selected. People suffering from depression require long-term psychotherapy in several directions: auto-training, cognitive-behavioral therapy, gestalt therapy.

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