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Malaise

Definition

Malaise is a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or lack of well-being.

Alternative Names

General ill feeling

Considerations

Malaise is a symptom that can occur with almost any health condition. It may start slowly or quickly, depending on the type of disease.

Fatigue (feeling tired) occurs with malaise in many diseases. You can have a feeling of not having enough energy to do your usual activities.

Causes

The following lists give examples of the diseases, conditions, and medicines that can cause malaise.

SHORT-TERM (ACUTE) INFECTIOUS DISEASE

LONG-TERM (CHRONIC) INFECTIOUS DISEASE

HEART AND LUNG (CARDIOPULMONARY) DISEASE

ORGAN FAILURE

CONNECTIVE TISSUE DISEASE

ENDOCRINE or METABOLIC DISEASE

CANCER

  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma (cancer that starts in the lymph system)
  • Solid tumor cancers, such as colon cancer

BLOOD DISORDERS

PSYCHIATRIC

MEDICINES

  • Anticonvulsant (antiseizure) medicines
  • Antihistamines
  • Beta blockers (medicines used to treat heart disease or high blood pressure)
  • Psychiatric medicines
  • Treatments involving several medicines

Home Care

Call your health care provider right away if you have severe malaise.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have other symptoms with the malaise
  • Malaise lasts longer than one week, with or without other symptoms

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions such as:

  • How long has this feeling lasted (weeks or months)?
  • What other symptoms do you have?
  • Is the malaise constant or episodic (comes and goes)?
  • Can you complete your daily activities? If not, what limits you?
  • Have you traveled recently?
  • What medicines are you on?
  • What are your other medical problems?
  • Do you use alcohol or other drugs?

You may have tests to confirm the diagnosis if your provider thinks the problem may be due to an illness. These may include blood tests, x-rays, or other diagnostic tests.

Your provider will recommend treatment if needed based on your exam and tests.

References

Leggett J. Approach to fever or suspected infection in the normal host. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 288.

Simel DL. Approach to the patient: history and physical examination. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 6.

Review Date:1/31/2015
Reviewed By:Linda J. Vorvick, MD, medical director and director of didactic curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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