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Asthenia - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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The term asthenia means extreme physical exhaustion with significantly less effort or no effort. Read the below article to learn more about asthenia.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At October 19, 2022
Reviewed AtJanuary 30, 2023

Introduction:

Asthenia is not a name of disease; rather, asthenia means extreme tiredness of the muscles and mental fatigue without much exertion. Asthenia could be a sign of many underlying diseases or medical conditions, or it may be a side effect of certain medications. This read covers what asthenia means, its common causes, clinical features, diagnosis, and treatment.

What Is Asthenia?

Asthenia, in simple terms, means weakness. The term asthenia calls not all types of liability. The condition is called asthenia when a person with no or minimal effort experiences extreme physical fatigue. Asthenia can result from a sign of several other medical conditions, or it could be a side effect of certain medications. A person might experience difficulty moving certain parts of the body like limbs, or some might experience trouble throughout the whole body. Rarely a person experiences mental fatigue along with physical exhaustion.

What Are the Common Causes of Asthenia?

Asthenia can be caused due to any underlying acute or chronic medical conditions or can also be caused due to any medications.

Some of the prevalent causes of asthenia are discussed below,

Deficiencies: The common cause of the extreme weakness of muscles is nutrient deficiency. Deficiencies like vitamin B12 deficiency can deteriorate the energy levels of the body. This might lead to feeling dizzy and tired all the time. Also, a person who is anemic has lesser energy levels than a person who is not anemic.

Mental Illness: The known leading cause of physical and mental fatigue is unresolved or under-maintained life-limiting mental illnesses. Anxiety and depression are the most common problem among today’s generation, and it is known to limit physical and psychological energy levels. Unfortunately, many cases of anxiety and depression go unnoticed. Insomnia can also cause poor energy levels during the daytime.

Poor Lifestyle Habits: The World Health Organization (WHO) says that about 60 % to 80 % of today’s world population lack required physical activity, leading to a poor sedentary lifestyle. A prolonged sedentary lifestyle can lead to extreme muscle weaknesses that lead to overall weakness and fatigue (asthenia).

Chronic Infections: Chronic unmanaged viral or bacterial infections may lead to extreme body weakness. Some infectious conditions that may lead to asthenia are hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Chronic Illness: Other chronic illnesses or metabolic diseases of the body like diabetes, thyroid abnormalities, insomnia, cancer, and other malignant conditions may make a person feel extremely weak and tired.

Old Age: The muscles and cells of the body are known to weaken as a person ages. Therefore, older adults are known to experience weakness and tiredness most of the time.

Neurological Diseases: Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological illnesses can cause extreme physical fatigue.

Pregnancy: Another common reversible cause of asthenia is pregnancy. A pregnant woman is known to have lesser energy levels, especially during her third trimester. This could be due to altered hormone levels.

Medication-Induced Asthenia: Certain medications have side effects that may make people feel weak or dizzy. Some of the common medicines that may lead to asthenia are;

  • Antidepressants.

  • Anti-anxiety pills.

  • Antihypertensives (medications used to control high blood pressure).

  • Statins (used to reduce the levels of cholesterol).

  • Chemotherapy drugs (used to treat tumors and other malignant conditions).

What Are the Symptoms Associated With Asthenia?

The nature and severity of asthenia may vary depending upon the cause, age, and several other factors.

A few of the common symptoms of asthenia are discussed below,

Regional Asthenia:

Some people might experience difficulty moving certain parts of the body like arms or legs. Asthenia is not similar to paralysis, as, in paralysis, the person will not be able to move certain parts of the body. In contrast, a person will have to exert so much energy in moving a specific part of the body, making them feel extremely tired or fatigued.

A person with regional asthenia may experience weakness along with other symptoms such as;

  • Muscle cramps or muscle spasms.

  • Slow movements.

  • Tremors or shaking of the region affected.

Generalized Asthenia:

Here in generalized asthenia, the person affected experiences extreme tiredness or fatigue throughout the body.

Other symptoms along with exhaustion are as follows,

  • Fever.

  • Symptoms that are similar to flu.

  • Malaise.

  • Dizziness.

  • Difficulty in doing any minimal day-to-day activities.

Severe Symptoms:

In rare instances, asthenia could signify a life-threatening condition like stroke or heart attack.

Signs of Stroke:

  • Sudden paralysis of a part of the body.

  • Confusion.

  • Inability to understand.

  • Inability to speak or slurred speech.

  • Loss of body balance.

  • Severe recurrent headaches.

  • Dizziness.

  • Vision problems like blurry vision.

Signs of Heart Attack:

  • Lightheadedness.

  • Nausea.

  • Pain in one or both the arms.

  • Pain or squeezing sensation in the chest.

  • Discomfort or pain in the neck, back, or jaws.

How Does a Doctor Diagnose Asthenia?

As mentioned already, asthenia is not a disease itself. Instead, it is a sign of any underlying disease or could be a side effect of any medication. Therefore the doctor first asks about the nature of fatigue, whether it is regional or generalized throughout the body. Then they search for the underlying causes.

  • Blood tests can be done to rule out any deficiency or hormonal imbalances.

  • CT (computed tomography) scans can be done to rule out any malignancies.

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

  • Ultrasound scans can also be done.

How to Treat Asthenia?

The treatment of asthenia depends upon its cause. After making the diagnosis, the doctor might have ruled out the causes of extreme tiredness. Then they will plan the treatment according to the causes.

  • Suppose a person experiences asthenia due to any nutrient deficiency. In that case, the doctor will advise an excellent nutrient-rich diet or may prescribe supplements depending upon the nature of the deficiency.

  • If a person experiences asthenia due to any metabolic conditions like diabetes or thyroid hormone imbalances, appropriate treatments are done to control and maintain the condition.

  • In mental conditions like anxiety, depression, or insomnia, a person might require professional counseling, therapy, or medications to feel better.

  • Any malignant conditions like cancer or tumor or infectious disease must be treated and brought under control.

  • Any medication-induced asthenia can be prevented by discontinuing the drug or prescribing an alternative medication that does not cause similar side effects.

Conclusion:

Asthenia is not so rare, and a proper diagnosis of the cause of asthenia can help the physician with the treatment planning and hence the cure. If you experience prolonged weakness or tiredness with no effort or minimum effort, then consider talking to your physician to find the cause and get your treatment done as soon as possible.

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Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)

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