Why Do I Feel Malaise?

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on September 19, 2023
4 min read

If you have a sense of malaise, you may not feel quite right, but you might be hard-pressed to put your fingers on exactly what's bothering you. It's not a condition, but a set of symptoms linked to some other problem. When you're in the grip of it, you might have fatigue, pain, and a lack of interest in your usual activities.

Depending on the cause, malaise can start slowly or hit you suddenly.

Scores of illnesses or disorders can lead to different degrees of malaise. They may range from viral conditions and blood diseases to organ failure and psychiatric disorders.

A sudden infection that eventually runs its course can shock your body. There are several diseases that are more closely linked with malaise. The most common ones and their symptoms -- in addition to malaise -- include:

Acute bronchitis or pneumonia. If you have this chest infection, you might have fever, chills, cough, and chest pain.

Mononucleosis ("mono"). If mono is the cause of your malaise, you could have a sore throat, headache, and swollen tonsils and lymph nodes.

Flu. If you have this virus, you might have a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and body aches.

Lyme disease. It's an infection that comes from a tick bite. You could have a rash, achy or swollen joints, night sweats, and be sensitive to light.

Hepatitis. If you have this liver disease, you might feel flu-like symptoms and have belly pain, dark urine, and pale stools.

Fibromyalgia. With this condition, you'll have joint pain and tenderness, sleep problems, trouble concentrating, and morning stiffness.

Malaise can be an early sign or ongoing symptom of long-term illnesses like:

Kidney disease. If this is the cause of your malaise, you could also have nausea and muscle cramps. You might vomit and not have much of an appetite.

Severe anemia. If you have this blood disorder that comes from low iron, you could feel dizzy and have pale skin, leg cramps, and a fast heartbeat.

Diabetes. If this is what's behind your malaise, you might feel very thirsty or hungry. You could have a dry mouth and blurred vision and need to pee more often than usual.

Congestive heart failure. If you have this heart condition, you might have an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Your legs might also swell.

Arthritis. The many forms of this joint disease can cause malaise. You might also have joint pain, stiffness that improves with activity, and less range of motion.

Chronic fatigue syndrome. If this is the reason for your malaise, you would feel extremely tired, most of the time, and for no clear reason. You might find sleep unrefreshing. You could have trouble concentrating, too.

Depression. This common mental health condition can interrupt your sleep. It may lead to you feel irritable, feel sluggish, and feel helpless.

Any major stress to your body, such as injury or surgery, can also cause malaise.

The drugs you take to feel better sometimes have side effects. Your age, gender, and allergies affect how your body reacts to medications. Medicines that may cause malaise include:

Some drugs may not cause malaise on their own, but they can when you take them with other drugs.

There are many things in your life that can lead to malaise, such as:

You should see a doctor if you feel overwhelmed by malaise for more than 7 days. Since malaise itself is not a disease, your doctor will look for other possible symptoms in order to diagnose you.

Your doctor will likely do a physical. They may ask questions like:

  • How long have you felt ill?
  • Do you have other symptoms?
  • Is your malaise constant, or does it come and go?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • Do you have other medical problems?
  • Can you complete your daily tasks?

Until your doctor treats the problem that's causing malaise, there are things you can try at home to feel better:

Exercise. A good workout can improve your appetite and increase your energy level.

Avoid long naps in the day. An afternoon snooze can make you feel even more sluggish. And it may make it harder to go to sleep at night.

Put away those cigarettes. Smoking can lead to cancer, heart disease, and other conditions that can sap your energy.

Eat nutritious meals and avoid junk food. It's no secret that you are what you eat. And the key to good health across the board is a well-balanced diet.