Symptoms A-Z

General Weakness Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand general weakness symptoms, including 10 causes & common questions.

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Contents

  1. 10 Possible General Weakness Causes
  2. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  3. Statistics

10 Possible General Weakness Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced general weakness. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Folate (vitamin) deficiency

Folate is also called folic acid or vitamin B9. It is needed to create red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. A shortage of folate leads to a shortage of healthy red blood cells, which is also called anemia.

Folate deficiency can be caused by poor diet; alcohol use; some medications; diseases of the large intestine; and pregnancy, since the growing baby requires folate in larger amounts.

Symptoms include severe fatigue; loss of appetite; diarrhea; paleness; sore tongue; and irritability. The same symptoms can appear in other conditions, especially blood disorders.

Folate deficiency is also a cause of abnormal brain and spine development in a fetus. For these reasons, it is very important to see a medical provider if these symptoms occur.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, blood tests, and sometimes digestive tract studies.

Treatment involves immediate supplementation of folate with injections, followed by folate and other vitamin and mineral tablets; improvement in diet; and treating any underlying digestive or blood disorder.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, depressed mood, irritability, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea

Symptoms that never occur with folate (vitamin) deficiency: abdominal swelling

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or "underactive thyroid," means that the thyroid gland in the neck does not produce enough of its hormones. This causes a slowing of the body's metabolism.

The condition can occur due to autoimmune disease; any surgery or radiation treatment to the thyroid gland; some medications; pregnancy; or consuming too much or too little iodine. It is often found among older women with a family history of the disease.

Common symptoms include fatigue, constantly feeling cold, weight gain, slow heart rate, and depression. If left untreated, these and other symptoms can worsen until they lead to very low blood pressure and body temperature, and even coma.

Diagnosis is made through a simple blood test.

Hypothyroidism is easily managed with daily oral medication. The patient usually starts feeling better after a couple of weeks and may even lose some extra weight. It's important for the patient to be monitored by a doctor and have routine blood testing so that the medication can be kept at the correct levels.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Myasthenia gravis (over 50)

Myasthenia Gravis is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks the connection between nerves and muscles.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: weakness, general weakness, trouble swallowing, voice change, double vision

Urgency: In-person visit

Late onset hypogonadism

Late onset hypogonadism is also called LOH, androgen deficiency, or testosterone deficiency syndrome (TDS.)

It is a reduction in testosterone production sometimes found in men over 50. A small amount of loss is natural due to aging, but LOH causes symptoms that may be severe and can interfere with quality of life.

Testosterone is needed to maintain the male reproductive system, but it also influences many other functions including metabolism, bone density, muscle strength and formation, and clear thinking.

LOH is most often caused by a direct loss of functioning in the testicles due to the combination of aging and other illnesses, especially those which interfere with circulation such as obesity, diabetes, or heart disease.

It may also be due to malfunction in the hypothalamus and/or pituitary glands in the brain, which control hormone levels.

Symptoms include erectile dysfunction as well as a decrease in libido, muscle strength, and energy. Osteoporosis is also a risk.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and blood tests. Treatment involves testosterone replacement therapy, which usually has very positive effects.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, depressed mood, irritability

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Guillain-barre syndrome

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a condition in which the body's immune system damages parts of neurons. Guillain-Barre syndrome usually occurs after an infection or other triggering event. It is believed that the event leads to an abnormal immune response in which the body produces antibodies, specific immune particles that attack neurons or the material lining the neurons.

Symptoms include progressive weakness, numbness or tingling, decreased or loss of reflexes, pain in the arms, leg, or back, double vision, loss of balance, abnormal heart rhythms or blood pressure levels, and difficulty breathing.

Treatment primarily involves intravenous immunoglobulin therapy or plasma exchange therapy, along with monitoring in a hospital or intensive care unit and supportive care for pain and abnormal vital signs.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: diarrhea, shortness of breath, constipation, general numbness, spontaneous back pain

Symptoms that always occur with guillain-barre syndrome: progressive weakness

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (als)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is also called ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease named after the Hall of Fame baseball player whose career ended when he developed ALS. It is a degenerative disease that destroys nerve cells, which eventually leads to loss of control over muscle function. The cause of ALS is not known.

Symptoms include weakness; difficulty with speaking, swallowing, walking, or using the hands; and muscle cramps. It does not affect the senses or a person's mental ability.

ALS is progressive, meaning it worsens over time. There is no cure, but supportive care can keep the patient more comfortable and improve quality of life. Treatment involves medications to both slow the progression of the disease and ease the symptoms; respiratory therapy; physical therapy; occupational therapy; and psychological support.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance, difficulty concentrating, difficulty walking, hoarse voice

Urgency: Primary care doctor

New migraine

New, or new-onset, migraine means the person has never experienced a migraine headache before. A migraine is a one-sided headache that causes intense pain and throbbing due to blood vessels dilating in the brain.

The exact reason for new-onset migraine headache is not known, but a number of causes are being studied:

  • Pregnancy.
  • Soy isoflavone supplements, especially in men.
  • Use and overuse of certain medications.
  • Traumatic head injury.
  • Angioma, which is a cluster of dilated blood vessels in the brain.
  • A complication of surgery for some heart conditions.

Anyone with a sudden severe headache should be seen by a medical provider, so that a more serious cause can be ruled out. A transient ischemic attack, also known as TIA or mini-stroke, can have symptoms similar to a migraine but is far more serious.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and imaging such as a CT scan.

Treatment for migraine varies with the individual. Lifestyle changes may be recommended and there are a number of medications that may be tried.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: new headache, fatigue, nausea, mild headache, headache that worsens when head moves

Symptoms that always occur with new migraine: new headache

Symptoms that never occur with new migraine: fever, diarrhea, productive cough, headache resulting from a head injury

Urgency: Self-treatment

Multiple sclerosis (ms)

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disease of the central nervous system. The body's immune system attacks nerve fibers and their myelin covering. This causes irreversible scarring called "sclerosis," which interferes with the transmission of signals between the brain and the body.

The cause is unknown. It may be connected to a genetic predisposition. The disease usually appears between ages 20 to 50 and is far more common in women than in men. Other risk factors include family history; viral infections such as Epstein-Barr; having other autoimmune diseases; and smoking.

Symptoms include numbness or weakness in arms, legs, or body; partial or total loss of vision in one or both eyes; tingling or shock-like sensation, especially in the neck; tremor; and loss of coordination.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, neurological examination, blood tests, MRI, and sometimes a spinal tap.

There is no cure for MS, but treatment with corticosteroids and plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) can slow the course of the disease and manage symptoms for better quality of life.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: severe fatigue, constipation, numbness, decreased sex drive, signs of optic neuritis

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough iron to form hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

The condition can be caused by acute blood loss through injury, surgery, or childbirth;chronic blood loss through an ulcer, overuse of aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or heavy menstrual periods; or impaired absorption of dietary iron due to low dietary iron intake, prior surgeries, disease, or interference from certain medications.

Symptoms of anemia may include fatigue, shortness of breath, and a rapid heartbeat. If not treated, iron deficiency anemia can lead to heart disease because the heart has to increase its pumping activity in order to compensate for the reduced oxygen carrying capacity of the red blood cells. In children, iron deficiency is also associated with developmental problems. The diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia is made through physical examination and blood tests.

Treatment includes a diet rich in iron-containing foods, such as red meat and leafy green vegetables, along with iron supplements. In some circumstances, hospitalization, blood transfusions, and/or intravenous iron therapy may be needed.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, heavy menstrual flow

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Chronic fatigue syndrome

CFS is a chronic, debilitating condition of extreme fatigue that persists for more than six months and results in a substantially lower level of occupational, educational, or social functioning than experienced prior.

It is characterized by fatigue that worsens with exertion but does not improve with rest and may also include cognitive impairment and autonomic symptoms, such as lightheadedness. It is diagnosed via a thorough medical evaluation for a variety of causes of fatigue. Symptoms often persist for years, although many people experience some improvement in symptoms with time.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and graded exercise programs are evidence-based treatments for CFS. Other symptomatic treatments may also be helpful.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, difficulty concentrating, severe fatigue, trouble sleeping, impaired social or occupational functioning

Symptoms that always occur with chronic fatigue syndrome: fatigue, impaired social or occupational functioning

Symptoms that never occur with chronic fatigue syndrome: mild fatigue, fever

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About General Weakness

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?
  • Has any part of your body become paler than normal?
  • Are you feeling irritable (easily made upset)?
  • Are you currently taking folic acid?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out why you're having general weakness

General Weakness Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced general weakness have also experienced:

  • 15% Fatigue
  • 3% Loss Of Muscle Mass
  • 3% Headache

People who have experienced general weakness were most often matched with:

  • 50% Myasthenia Gravis (Over 50)
  • 30% Hypothyroidism
  • 20% Folate (Vitamin) Deficiency

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

General Weakness Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you're having general weakness