Asthenia is a medical term which literally means ‘without strength’. Asthenia is more like a symptom itself rather than a disease. It is the feeling of being tired or fatigue. The word asthenia is now being used interchangeably with the terms “weakness” and “fatigue” but the term ‘fatigue’ has gained more acceptance in the medical literature. It has a wide spectrum of presentations ranging from a generalized body weakness to the weakness of a specific part of the body. It can last for a short while or it may be a permanent weakness. There are several diseases or causes which can result in asthenia ranging from a mere lack of sleep to serious illnesses like cancer or heart attack. So proper investigations and medical examination is required to reach the underlying cause.
The prevalence of asthenia or fatigue ranges from 48 to 75 percent in the patients with cancer and it increases to about 85 percent in patients having serious or life-threatening illnesses.
Signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms vary greatly. Some are mild while dangerous one can lead to an immediate visit to an emergency department. They also help the physicians to find the underlying cause. The weakness can be generalized or isolated
Generalized weakness: the whole body is feeling weak. It has happened to most of us when we suffer from common flu. It is similar to the feeling of being tired but one can feel a full-body weakness even without feeling any tiredness. It may also be associated with the pain, fever or decreased appetite or flu-like symptoms.
Isolated weakness: this weakness means that there is difficulty in a specific part of your body. The specific part of your body can be legs, hands, fingers or the muscles controlling the movement of your eyelids or face. The weakness can also vary from an increased difficulty in moving the body parts or no movement at all. It can also be associated with
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle twitching or flickering
- Tremors or shaking
Emergency symptoms: There are the symptoms which are a part of asthenia corresponding to the affected vital organs. Whenever one experiences the following symptoms, he or she should seek the help as soon as possible
- Difficulty in breathing
- Light-headedness or dizziness
- Difficulty in speaking
- Vision changes
- Chest pain
Fatigue or weakness can be caused by simple illnesses to life-threatening ones. The common causes are
- Low functioning thyroid
- Common cold
- Vitamins and micronutrients deficiency
- Congestive heart failure Medication like chemotherapy side effects
There can be causes that are related to your lifestyle like
- Lack of sleep
- Excessive or lack of physical activity
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Poor and unhealthy eating practices
Other causes of fatigue
- Heart attack
- Nerve of muscle injuries after trauma
- Diseases affecting muscles or nerves like myasthenia gravis
- Overdose of medication
Some of the causes are sudden and leads to sudden weakening of the parts of the body like stroke or a heart attack while in many diseases fatigue develop over a period of time gradually. The experience of a sudden weakness requires attention and management as soon as possible.