What is Malaise?


Malaise is a general feeling of discomfort or unease that can be difficult to pinpoint. It is often described as a vague sense of not feeling well and may be accompanied by fatigue, weakness, or a general sense of being run-down. Malaise can be caused by a variety of factors, including illness, stress, anxiety, or sleep deprivation. It is frequently a symptom of a more serious underlying condition rather than a separate condition in and of itself. If you are experiencing persistent or severe malaise, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment. Here in this article we will have a look at different symptoms, causes, treatments, and medical conditions of malaise.

What causes Malaise?

Malaise can have many different causes, and it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact underlying issue without a medical evaluation. Some potential causes of malaise include:

  1. Infections: Malaise is a common symptom of many different types of infections, including viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. These can include the flu, pneumonia, strep throat, or urinary tract infections.
  2. Chronic conditions: Certain chronic conditions, such as autoimmune diseases or chronic fatigue syndrome, can cause ongoing feelings of malaise.
  3. Sleep disturbances: Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can lead to feelings of fatigue and malaise.
  4. Stress and anxiety: Mental health issues like stress and anxiety can lead to a variety of physical symptoms, including malaise.
  5. Dehydration: When the body is dehydrated, it can lead to feelings of fatigue and malaise.
  6. Medications: Certain medications can cause malaise as a side effect.
  7. Nutrient deficiencies: Lack of important nutrients like iron or vitamin D can cause feelings of fatigue and malaise.

These are just a few examples of potential causes of malaise. It is important to speak with a healthcare professional if you are experiencing persistent or severe malaise, as they can help determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

Medical Conditions for Malaise Symptoms

Malaise can be a symptoms of multiple infectious and non-infectious diseases and conditions:

  • Respiratory infections: Diseases including pneumonia, tuberculosis, the common cold, influenza, bronchitis, and pneumonia cause malaise, even in the absence of fever.
  • Other infections: Lyme disease, mononucleosis, AIDS, hepatitis, and other parasitic infections can cause malaise. 
  • Organ failure or disease: Congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, kidney disease, and liver disease are life-threatening conditions that can cause malaise. 
  • Connective tissue diseases: Rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, and systemic lupus erythematosus can cause malaise.
  • Metabolic disease: Adrenal gland dysfunction, diabetes, and thyroid disease can cause malaise and fatigue.
  • Cancers: Leukemia, lymphoma, colon and other cancers are also known to cause malaise and fatigue. The cancer cells siphon off your body’s energy so that they can grow.
  • Blood disorders: Anemia occurs when the blood isn’t able to transport enough oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs. This energy deficit can cause malaise.
  • Psychiatric conditions: Depression, anxiety, and dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder) are associated with higher levels of inflammation leading to malaise. 

Many people recovering from COVID-19 and those with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) may also experience post-exertional malaise. This occurs when minor mental or physical activity has a drastic impact on the body’s metabolism. As a result, it leads to malaise, fatigue, and a worsening of other symptoms.

Medications if you found Malaise Symptoms

Malaise is an unwanted, but common, side effect of different types of medications:

  • Anticonvulsants (anti-seizure medication): In rare cases, malaise can be a warning sign of serious liver side effects. 
  • Antihistamine (allergy medication): These drugs affect the levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This affects your brain’s attention and arousal, which can cause you to feel malaise, fatigue, and drowsiness.
  • Beta-blockers: These drugs are used to lower blood pressure or treat heart disease, and can lower the amount of oxygen transported to the rest of the body. Since your cells are receiving less fuel, this can lead to malaise.
  • Psychiatric medications: Malaise is a warning sign of more serious side effects for antipsychotic medications. Taking or tapering off of antidepressants can also cause malaise.

What are the Symptoms of Malaise

There isn’t a lot of peer-reviewed research focused solely on malaise. However, there are still clear symptoms that allow healthcare providers to make a diagnosis:

  • A sense of general discomfort
  • Feeling weak, unwell, or ill 
  • Vague bodily discomfort

How to Treat Malaise?

The treatments for malaise depend on the underlying cause. Sometimes the cause isn’t apparent and requires further diagnostic tests. 

A healthcare professional might ask for your family history as well as any new medications you might be taking. If they believe your malaise is linked to a drug reaction, they may suggest switching to another medication. If the underlying cause is still unknown, they may request different tests to diagnose the source of the symptoms.

These tests include:

  • Blood tests to look for signs of anemia, cancer, metabolic diseases, and inflammation.
  • Screenings for mental illnesses like anxiety or depression.
  • A physical exam to assess your overall health.
  • X-rays and other diagnostic imaging for cancer and other abnormalities.

The causes of malaise aren’t always clear-cut and can be difficult to diagnose. For the majority of cases, these tests can clear up the source of malaise. For example, if the blood test shows low iron levels suggesting anemia, this might be the source of your malaise. Your healthcare practitioner would then recommend iron supplements to treat the anemia.

Malaise and Fatigue

Fatigue often occurs along with malaise. When experiencing malaise, you will often also feel exhausted or lethargic in addition to a generalized feeling of being unwell. Like malaise, fatigue has a large number of possible explanations. It can be due to lifestyle factors, illnesses, and certain medications.

How is malaise diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a physical examination. They’ll look for an obvious physical condition that could be the cause of your malaise or could give clues about its cause.

They will also ask questions about your malaise. Be prepared to provide details such as approximately when the malaise started and whether the malaise seems to come and go, or is constantly present.

Your doctor will also likely ask you questions about recent travel, additional symptoms you’re experiencing, any challenges you have in completing daily activities, and why you think you’re having these challenges.

They’ll ask you what medications you’re taking, if you use drugs or alcohol, and whether you have any known health issues or conditions.

If they aren’t sure what’s causing you to feel malaise, they may order tests to confirm or rule out one or more diagnoses. These tests may include blood tests, X-rays, and other diagnostic tools. You can read more details about malaise at healthline.

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