- Asthenia is a condition that is associated with muscle or body weakness in the absence of any physical exertion or effort.
- Asthenia is caused due to several medical and lifestyle factors. Some asthenia causes include infections, thyroid disorders, anaemia, dehydration, diabetes, chronic disorders, heart diseases, drug-induced side effects, vitamin B12 deficiency, nerve/muscle-related disorders, mental illnesses, ageing, sedentary lifestyles and pregnancy.
- Symptoms of asthenia can be divided into isolated muscle weakness symptoms and total body symptoms. Some common symptoms include fever, muscle cramps, muscle twitching, tremors, joint pain, body aches, restless sleep, reduced muscle mobility and strength. If you think you may be showing these symptoms, our doctors on MFine are available anytime, anywhere to help diagnose your condition and recommend a treatment plan that works for you.
- The diagnosis of asthenia revolves around finding the underlying cause that is resulting in muscle or total body weakness. A few common diagnostic tests include blood tests, vitamin profile tests, liver function tests, thyroid tests, diabetes screening, urine tests and other imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ECGs and brain scans to detect organ abnormalities that may be causing asthenia.
- Asthenia treatments are carried out according to the underlying cause of muscle or body weakness. Some ways in which asthenia can be prevented include maintaining an active lifestyle, eating a diet rich in vitamins and energy-providing nutrients and getting adequate sleep.
Chapter 1: What is Asthenia?
Asthenia is a condition that is associated with body weakness or extreme fatigue in the absence of any physical exertion. A person with asthenia may feel like they have no energy in body to do their daily tasks or sometimes experience tiredness only in a certain area of their body. For example, they may experience muscle weakness in legs or arms only and not their full body. This lack of energy causing the near immobility of muscles or body parts is best described as Asthenia.
Asthenia or weakness in most cases may be a temporary and treatable condition, however, in other situations body fatigue is chronic and has the ability to affect the quality of life. Reports have revealed that almost 0.7% of ambulatory asthenia cases are eventually diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, a serious and debilitating condition causing long-term illness. Further, when a breakdown in communication occurs between the muscles and nerves in your body, it can cause immediate full-body weakness or extreme fatigue in particular voluntary muscles that are affected by this communication breakdown. This condition of severe asthenia is medically known as myasthenia gravis that can occur at any age, but commonly occurs in women below the age of 40 and men above the age of 60.
Chapter 2: Common Asthenia Causes
There are many factors that may cause muscle or body weakness. Common Asthenia causes usually fall under two categories - medical and lifestyle causes.
Medical Causes of Asthenia
- Flu - Patients with the flu suffer from asthenia alongside symptoms like stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, fever that are usually more severe than a common cold.
- Thyroid disorders - Since the endocrine system is responsible for regulating metabolism in the body, thyroid disorders like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are known to cause muscle weakness and body fatigue leaving patients feeling exhausted most of the time.
- Anaemia - Patients with anaemia tend to experience weakness due to the reduced haemoglobin and iron in their blood. As haemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen to the body tissues, muscle weakness is experienced as a lack.
- Dehydration - Dehydration refers to the lack of water in the body. Around 60% of the human body is made up of water. Water is essential in regulating body temperature, safeguarding the joints and tissues, flushing out toxins from the body, providing energy by aiding nutrient absorption and much more. Hence, when your body has lesser water than what it should have, muscle weakness or body tiredness eventually follows.
- Hyponatremia - This condition is associated with electrolyte imbalance due to metabolic disorders resulting in a lower than usual sodium level in the body. Patients suffering from hyponatremia tend to experience fatigue and weakness to a great extent.
- Diabetes - Diabetes itself isn’t a cause of asthenia, however when diabetes in a patient is poorly treated or goes undiagnosed, it can cause weakness in the body.
- Chronic disorders - Patients who suffer from chronic diseases such as cancers, chronic kidney disease, insomnia and even myasthenia gravis are known to complain of constant fatigue in their day-to-day lives.
- Prolonged infection - Prolonged bodily infections such as hepatitis and tuberculosis are common asthenia causes, especially muscle weakness.
- Heart diseases - One of the initial symptoms that patients complain about when faced with heart-related conditions such as heart attacks and congestive heart failure and other heart diseases is fatigue of the upper body, especially arm weakness.
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency - Vitamin B12 plays a key role in regulating functions of the nervous system. It is also vital for growth and the formation of red blood cells. Asthenia may be caused by a deficiency of this vitamin due to anaemia or neurological disruptions in the body.
- Side effects of medication - Certain drugs and medications that are used to treat specific conditions can cause extreme fatigue as a side effect. Patients complain of their body feeling heavy and tired most of the time.
- Surgical Procedures - Patients have shown to experience asthenia before and after surgical procedures.
- Dialysis - Dialysis has shown to leave patients feeling tired and weak during the procedure and after its completion.
- Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy is another major cause of extreme fatigue and muscle weakness in patients. As chemotherapy involves powerful drugs that are designed to destroy cancer cells, they also tend to harm healthy cells in the process. Nevertheless, asthenia is a common symptom.
- Nerve/Muscle related diseases - Nerve and muscle-related diseases or injuries have the ability to cause asthenia. In some cases, due communication breakdown between the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system, myasthenia gravia can develop.
- Strokes - The onset of asthenia during strokes is usually more immediate than other medical conditions such as cancer and other diseases.
Lifestyle Causes of Asthenia
- Mental Health - Depression and anxiety is shown to be one of the main causes of body fatigue and accounts for half of all Asthenia cases worldwide. However, many times it often goes undiagnosed.
- Sedentary lifestyle - Research shows an alarming percentage of people worldwide, around 70% lead a sedentary lifestyle and don’t get enough exercise they require to lead a healthy life. This lack of physical activity leads to muscles reaching a state of inertia causing patients to experience muscle weakness in legs, arms, back and many other parts of their body.
- Ageing process - As people age, the cells and tissue’s ability to maintain homeostasis reduces causing Asthenia symptoms. This is also a common occurrence in people who are under constant stress.
- Pregnancy - Pregnancy is another factor that is commonly associated with low energy levels and constant fatigue and is especially prominent during the last trimester. Asthenia in pregnancy is due to changes in levels of progesterone in the woman’s body.
Chapter 3: What are the symptoms of Asthenia?
Asthenia symptoms can be categorised into 2 types:
1. Isolated weakness - This is when the weakness and fatigue is focused on a specific part of the body or a muscle. Associated symptoms include:
- Muscle cramps
- Involuntary muscle twitching
- Muscle tremors
- Loss of muscle strength
- Reduced or delayed movement of the muscle
2. Total body weakness - People suffering from this type of weakness complain of their body feeling heavy and tired like there is no energy in body. This is commonly associated with “tiredness” nevertheless, the possibility of full-body weakness without fatigue is also likely. Associated symptoms in this category include:
- Joint pain
- Disturbed or restless sleep
- Body aches
- Wobbly sensations
Sometimes when the above symptoms are coupled with the symptoms listed below, it is advised to seek medical emergency assistance immediately as they can often be life-threatening. These include:
- Excruciating pain
- Chest pain
- Disorientation or confusion
- Difficulty breathing or speaking
- Changes or sudden loss of vision
- Speech disturbances
Chapter 4: How is Asthenia diagnosed?
It is absolutely vital to consult a doctor on the onset of any of the symptoms of asthenia, no matter the severity, as they will be able to diagnose your condition properly and identify or rule out any underlying causes for body or muscle weakness.
Some of the diagnostic tests that doctors may request are:
1. Blood tests - a doctor would suggest doing a
- Complete blood count test
- A vitamin profile test to check vitamin B12, vitamin D, ferritin and folate levels in the body.
- Biochemical tests like liver function tests, thyroid tests, blood glucose levels, serum electrolytes and renal function tests to rule out any underlying infections or disease that may be causing asthenia
- Anti-body tests to check the presence of an autoimmune disease
2. Urine tests - The doctor may also analyse a patient’s urine sample to check for pregnancy, diabetes and other liver diseases.
3. Imaging tests - Tests in this category include MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, echocardiogram and ultrasounds to and rule out issues like heart disease, tuberculosis, tumours, and other organ abnormalities causing muscle or body tiredness. Brains scans and electrocardiograms may be performed if a heart attack or stroke is suspected.
Chapter 5: Asthenia treatment and prevention
Treatment options for asthenia are plenty, however, determining the underlying cause of the weakness helps your doctor prescribing the appropriate treatment plan for you. After your doctor gains an understanding of what is causing your weakness, asthenia treatments for your case will be discussed accordingly.
If Asthenia is due to medical causes like:
- Dehydration, doctors may suggest you increase your water and fluid intake. However severe dehydration may call for hospitalization where fluid intake will be altered from orally to intravenously along with medication to increase blood pressure.
- Insomnia, doctors may suggest medication and counselling from a sleep disorder specialist, that may help in reducing asthenia.
- Infections and disease, the asthenia treatment would primarily be administering antibiotics that are targeted at curing the respective infection or disease that is causing the weakness.
- Anaemia, iron supplements would need to be taken. However, if your anaemia is severe, you may require hospitalization where a blood transfusion would be done intravenously in an attempt to raise haemoglobin levels in the blood.
- Auto-immune disorders, treatments would generally include the administration of corticosteroids and other drugs that are primarily aimed at suppressing the immune system.
- Vitamin Deficiencies, a treatment plan would include changes in diet to include items that contain a high level of the necessary vitamins or the addition of the necessary vitamin supplements in pill form.
Asthenia treatments may also include:
- Therapy and counselling - for those dealing with anxiety attacks and adjustment disorders and depression. Antidepressants may be administered to treat those suffering from constant fatigue related to depression.
- Occupational therapy - this is helpful in reducing asthenia symptoms after surgery or even chemotherapy as people may tend to experience muscle weakness and issues with balance and mobility.
- Physiotherapy - another great muscle weakness treatment that helps in optimizing strength and mobility in the joints and muscles.
Several ways one can prevent asthenia are by:
1. Being more active: Creating and maintaining a lifestyle that is organized and has room to include leisure time as well as physical activity for at least 30 minutes can help in preventing asthenia. Further, studies have shown that a minimum of 30 minutes spent outdoors can help in relaxing the mind and body and have a positive impact on a person’s mental health.
2. Eating a healthy diet: Nourishing the body and muscles with foods rich in vitamin B12 helps maintain high energy levels throughout the day. A balanced diet with foods rich in protein and calcium and less in saturated fats can help prevent asthenia. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine may also help in regulating daily energy levels.
3. Getting adequate sleep: It is recommended that adults get a minimum of 6-8 of sleep per day. Sleep plays an active role in the repair and healing of your cells and blood vessels. Sleep also helps to promote sustainable brain function and can improve concentration and productivity. Getting enough sleep helps your body and mind rest and reset and gear up for the day ahead.
In conclusion, general weakness and body tiredness is bound to ebb and flow and is normal in a person’s lifetime. In most cases, rest is a proven solution to help deal with weakness. However, if you notice yourself constantly feeling exhausted for no reason, or if a particular body part like your arms or legs feel weak, or weaker than usual, it is important to consult your doctor early on to help devise an asthenia treatment plan that will help you recover faster.
Chapter 6: FAQs
What are the symptoms of asthenia?
If asthenia presents itself as an isolated muscle weakness then some symptoms you can expect to see are muscle cramps, involuntary muscle twitching, muscle tremors and loss energy or strength in the muscle. If asthenia presents itself as a full-body weakness, symptoms may include fever, joint pain, restless sleep and body aches. However, if these symptoms are coupled with chest pain, dizziness, disorientation, shortness of breath or difficulty in speaking, it is advised that you seek medical assistance immediately as it can be life-threatening.
What do I do if my legs feel weak for no reason?
Muscle weakness is often a sign of asthenia and should be diagnosed without delay. If you have any other symptoms along with weakness in your legs, our doctors on MFine are here to help diagnose your condition and prescribe you a treatment plan accordingly.
Is arm weakness a sign of asthenia?
Yes. Arm weakness could be a sign of asthenia. However, if it is coupled with pain, chest pain and shortness of breath it could be a sign of a heart disorder. It is vital that you consult a doctor to identify the underlying cause of the weakness early on.
What are some treatments for extreme muscle weakness?
Asthenia or muscle weakness treatments are given in accordance with the underlying cause of weakness. If asthenia is caused due to infections, antibiotics may be prescribed to cure the infection. If asthenia is caused due to vitamin deficiencies, alterations in diet or vitamin supplements may be suggested. If asthenia is caused by severe dehydration or severe anaemia, hospitalization may be required to administer treatments intravenously. If asthenia is caused due to mental health, lifestyle choices and chemotherapy and counselling, occupational and physical therapy may be implemented as a means to regain muscle strength and mobility.
Who is at risk of developing asthenia?
People who have a poor lifestyle and eating habits or lead a sedentary lifestyle are at risk of developing asthenia. However, asthenia is caused by many other medical reasons with sometimes the above factors not even playing a key role in them. However, asthenia can be prevented by leading an active lifestyle, eating a diet rich in nutrients and getting adequate sleep every day.