More commonly known as “fatigue”, asthenia is a feeling of exhaustion and weakness in the body. It is neither related to effort nor does it necessarily disappear after resting. Chronic, functional, psychic, visual … There are different kinds of asthenia.

What is asthenia?

Asthenia is a medical term often used to express physical fatigue. It is more precisely a deterioration of the general condition leading to a generalized weakness of the organism. It is distinguished from fatigue, because it is a state of exhaustion occurring without any effort and not disappearing at rest. There are several forms of asthenia depending on its cause, its duration, and the associated clinical manifestations.

Symptoms of asthenia

Lack of energy, depression, the feeling of exhaustion or even fatigue are symptoms often grouped under the term “asthenia”. In a somewhat schematic way, we can distinguish several types.

Functional asthenia

Functional asthenia corresponds to a feeling of unexplained fatigue and a lack of dynamism that persists despite a long rest. Doctors advocate the adoption of simple measures to fight it: get enough sleep, drink alcohol and coffee in moderation, stop smoking and exercise. Plus, eating a balanced diet can help prevent it. Antiasthenic contain vitamins and amino acids intended to fight fatigue. A medical check-up is always essential.

Chronic asthenia

Prolonged asthenia or chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by permanent fatigue. We speak of prolonged asthenia when fatigue is present for at least 50% of the day, when it has no apparent reason and when it lasts for at least 6 months. Other symptoms such as fever, headache, insomnia, and joint pain may occur. This is a recent pathology that raises several questions. The treatment, generally long (several years), is based on magnesium intake, psychological support, and physiotherapy.

Muscular asthenia

Muscular asthenia can be related to exhaustion unrelated to physical activity. In some cases, it can be of psychic origin. Consultation, laboratory tests and additional examinations are necessary to diagnose the cause.

Major asthenia

Prolonged asthenia (or chronic fatigue syndrome) is characterized by major (more than 50% of the time) and unexplained asthenia that has lasted for at least 6 months. Difficult to diagnose, it generally progresses towards recovery but can take several years to disappear completely. A health check must be carried out.

Neurotic asthenia

Neurotic asthenia results in intense fatigue and a feeling of being ill.

Morning asthenia

Morning asthenia occurs in the morning. Fatigue varies from day to day, regardless of patient effort and hours of sleep. It can be accompanied by headaches and various pains. It often disappears at the end of the day. Treatment depends on the responsible cause. It is essential to carry out a medical check-up.

Reactive asthenia

Reactive asthenia or overwork asthenia is a form of asthenia associated with stress. It is characterized by a feeling of exhaustion, a great fatigue which persists despite resting. Psychotherapy, good nutrition, and better scheduling can treat it. A health check is required.

Severe asthenia

Severe asthenia or severe fatigue is manifested by a state of significant exhaustion in the absence of any effort. Rest does not improve the condition of an asthenic person. Severe asthenia can originate from depression or physical illness. In the latter case, it is an organic fatigue. When the asthenic state is prolonged, it requires a consultation. The cause of this symptom must be determined so that a medical protocol can be put in place.

Causes of asthenia

Asthenia is not a pathology in itself, but a symptom. It can be linked to overwork, but also to many pathologies: anemia, endocrine disorder, cancer, or alcohol abuse. It can also be caused by certain drugs, as well as certain neurological, metabolic, hematological, cardiovascular, respiratory, or digestive disorders. The word asthenia is also sometimes used as a suffix to describe the decrease in the capacities of an organ: myasthenia gravis, for example, expresses “fatigue of the muscles”.

Functional asthenia is thought to be due to stress and poor eating habits. In chronic asthenia, the role of an infectious agent and depression are sometimes highlighted. Concerning muscular asthenia, in certain cases, it can be of psychological origin. Often, morning asthenia affects people with insomnia and a depressive state is often found. Reactive asthenia can be caused by a professional or family event (divorce, change of job, move, etc.) and accompanied by muscle pain as well as mood disorders. Severe asthenia can originate from depression or physical illness.

When to see your doctor?

In case of any persistent asthenia, it is advisable to see a doctor. The latter will first of all look for a relatively obvious cause such as an infection (viral or bacterial, current, or recent), an unsuitable lifestyle (sleep debt, unbalanced diet, physical activity), depression or a side effect of a drug (the list is long…).

The doctor will order a blood test to look for anemia, inflammation, kidney, thyroid, or diabetes, or to confirm other hypotheses as a result of the physical examination. Sometimes x-rays, a CT scan, or even an MRI may also be necessary to search for a tumor.

Treatments: how to relieve asthenia?

It is up to the doctor to determine the best approach to treat asthenia. So, they will have to find the cause and cure it. The treatment is that of the cause, possibly supplemented by antasthenic products, or vitamin supplements. Treatment may be based on a prescription for antidepressants to relieve depression. In case of bacterial infection, antibiotics are prescribed.

When asthenia is linked to a poor lifestyle, it is therefore necessary to find a healthier rhythm of life (healthy and balanced diet, smoking, alcohol, time for activities, sufficient rest, etc.).

Erica Delaney

An experienced nurse, Erica focuses on subjects related to pregnancy and infant health. She enjoys dancing and playing the piano in her free time.