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What causes general weakness? 230 possible conditions

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.

Article Sources:

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



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Cold and Flu Overview

Common colds and influenza are contagious infections that affect the respiratory system. Both are airborne illnesses, spread through coughing and sneezing. Shared symptoms include headache, cough, sore throat, and more.

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CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating disorder characterized by extreme tiredness that can't be explained by an underlying medical condition.

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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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There are many symptoms of the autoimmune disease HIV/AIDS, including persistent skin rashes, night sweats, and mouth sores.

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Sleeplessness, or 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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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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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 complications like obesity and heart disease.

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

Bleeding can refer to blood loss inside the body (internal bleeding) or blood loss outside of the body (external bleeding). It can cause bruising, pain, and symptoms of shock. Too much bleeding can lead to death.

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Stroke Overview

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

A stroke (a "brain attack") is a medical emergency in which part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. This occurs when an artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the brain becomes damaged and brain cells begin to die.

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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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Bleeding or spotting, increased need to urinate, tender breasts, fatigue, nausea, and missed period are signs of pregnancy.

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Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells. Excessive sweating at night, fatigue, weight loss, bone pain, and easy bleeding or bruising are signs of this disease.

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Malaria is a life-threatening disease. It is typically transmitted through the bite of a mosquito infected with Anopheles. Nausea, chills, fever, and diarrhea are common symptoms.

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Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. BMI is calculated using a person's weight and height. It can lead to other conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

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Heart Attack Overview

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

A clot blocks the blood flow to the heart (heart attack), and damages heart muscle. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and a blue or grey tinge to the skin.

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Muscular Dystrophies

Muscular dystrophies are a group of inherited diseases that damage and weaken your muscles over time. This damage and weakness is due to the lack of a protein.

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Diabetes Overview

Diabetes is a group of chronic metabolic diseases caused by defects in insulin production or function. Advanced diabetes may cause stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, and cramps.

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