What causes general weakness? 207 possible conditions

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What Is Body Weakness?

Weakness is the feeling of body fatigue (tiredness). A person experiencing weakness may not be able to move that part of their body properly or they may experience tremors (uncontrollable movement or twitches) in the area of weakness.

Some people experience weakness in a certain area of their bodies, such as the arms or legs. Others may experience full body weakness, which is often the result of a bacterial or viral infection such as influenza or hepatitis. Weakness may be temporary, but in some cases it is chronic or continuous.

What Is the Cause of Weakness?

Common causes of weakness include:

  • influenza
  • insomnia
  • medication side effects (often seen with mild tranquilizers used to treat anxiety)
  • polymyositis (inflammatory muscle disease)
  • chemotherapy
  • hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E
  • blood loss

Other, more severe causes of weakness include:

  • cancer
  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • muscle or nerve injury
  • diseases affecting the nerves or muscles
  • medication or vitamin overdose
  • poison

Although weakness caused by cancer may appear slowly over an extended amount of time, weakness caused by a heart attack or stroke is often immediate.

In addition to experiencing weakness, other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, pain, and irregular heartbeat may be present. Call 911 if you experience sudden weakness. DO NOT attempt to drive yourself to the hospital.

Signs of Weakness

Isolated Weakness

If you experience weakness in one area of your body, you may find that you are unable to move that part of your body efficiently. You may also experience:

  • delayed or slow movement
  • uncontrollable shaking (tremors)
  • muscle twitching
  • muscle cramps

Full Body Weakness

Full body weakness causes you to feel run down, similar to the feeling you get when you have the flu. This is often called fatigue, but it is also possible to experience full body weakness without feeling tired.

Some people who experience full body weakness also experience fever, flulike symptoms, or pain in the affected area.

Dangerous Symptoms

You should contact your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness
  • confusion
  • difficulty speaking
  • changes in vision
  • severe pain

Diagnosing the Cause of Weakness

Weakness can be treated in many different ways. Determining the underlying cause provides the best method of treatment. When you visit your doctor, he or she will go over your symptoms and the time you began experiencing them. This will give your doctor an idea as to what is causing you to feel weak.

Your doctor may request that you give a urine sample and he or she may also take a blood sample from you. These samples are tested for infections and signs of possible medical conditions that may cause weakness. If you’re experiencing pain, your doctor may also order an imaging test to have a look at the area affected. Imaging tests include X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds.

If your doctor suspects you are having (or have had) a heart attack or stroke, he or she will order a brain scan and EKG test.

How Is Weakness Treated?

Once the cause of weakness is diagnosed, treatment options will be discussed. If weakness is caused by a cold or flu, treatment may not be necessary.


If you are dehydrated, increasing your fluid intake can help. However, if you’re showing severe symptoms of dehydration, you may require hospital treatment will be given fluids through an intravenous line. Medication may also be given to increase your blood pressure. At this point, the weakness may begin to subside.

Cancer Treatment

Treatment options for cancer will be determined by your doctor. The stage, location, and body structure involved all help to determine a good course of treatment. Treatment options for cancer include:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation treatment
  • surgery

Note: Certain cancer treatments (especially chemotherapy) also cause weakness.

Blood Loss

Weakness caused by blood loss may require a blood transfusion. A blood transfusion is given in hospital. This treatment consists of feeding donor blood into your body through an intravenous line.

Heart Attack

Treatment options for weakness caused by a heart attack will be determined by your doctor.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Cold and Flu Overview

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CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating disorder characterized by intense fatigue that cannot be cured with sleep. Mental and physical activities may cause symptoms to worsen. When fatigue cannot be linked to ...

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Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Also known as hypoglycemia, low blood sugar can be a dangerous condition. Hypoglycemia is rare in people who are not suffering from diabetes, the chronic disease that affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar...

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Common Cold Overview

The common cold is a virus that involves symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose and a headache. Learn the causes, symptoms and treatments for the common cold now!

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Insomnia is a serious sleep disorder. It can mean the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night, or the tendency to wake too early before having gotten enough sleep.

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Urinary Tract Infection

UTIs are usually caused by bacteria and can occur in any part of the urinary tract. Symptoms of upper UTIs include pain in the upper back, chills, fever, and nausea.

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Low Blood Potassium

Hypokalemia occurs when the blood's potassium levels are too low. A normal level of potassium is 3.6-5.2 millimoles per liter. Levels below 3.6 are considered low.

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HIV causes progressive failure of the immune system, making the body far more susceptible to infections and cancer.

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The thyroid gland produces a hormone that controls how your cells use energy (metabolize). Hypothyroidism occurs when the body doesn't produce enough. Untreated, it can cause comlications like obesity and heart disease.

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Nutritional Deficiencies (Malnutrition)

The recommended daily amount (RDA) of a nutrient is determined by how much the body needs to stay healthy. Nutrients can be obtained in a variety of ways-from eating a varied diet to taking vitamin supplements. ...

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Iron Deficiency Anemia

Anemia occurs when a person has lower-than-normal levels of red blood cells (RBCs) in the blood. According to the American Society of Hematology, there are many factors that can contribute to lower-than-normal RB...

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Bleeding is the name commonly used to describe blood loss. It can refer to blood loss inside the body (internal bleeding) or blood loss outside of the body (external bleeding). Blood loss can occur in almost any area o...

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What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by unexplained pain in muscles and joints throughout the body. Read our doctor-reviewed articles and learn about fibromyalgia now.

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Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic condition that affects the chambers of your heart. You have four heart chambers: two atria in the upper half of the heart and two ventricles in the lower half. Th...

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Infectious Mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis, often called "mono," is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It typically occurs in teenagers, but you can get it at any age. The virus is spread through saliva, which is why some peopl...

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Stroke Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A stroke is a medical emergency where part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. There are four major kinds of stroke: cerebral thrombosis, cerebral embolism, subarachnoid hemorrhage & intracerebral hemorrhage.

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, worry uncontrollably about common occurrences and situations. The condition may also be called chronic anxiety neurosis.GAD is different than normal feeling...

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Mini Stroke (Transient Ischemic Attack)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

During a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini stroke, blood stops flowing to the brain for a short period of time. However, a mini stroke doesn't kill brain cells like a stroke does. A mini strok...

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PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a condition that affects a woman's emotions, physical health, and behavior during certain days of the month generally just before her menstrual period. PMS symptoms start five to 11 day...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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