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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Weakness is a loss of muscle strength. It may be caused by brain, nerve, or muscle problems. Physical and mental conditions such as heart problems, pregnancy, dehydration, or depression may also cause weakness. Reactions to certain drugs can cause weakness. Parts of your body may become weak if you need to wear a cast or splint or have been on bed rest for a long time.
Call 911 for any of the following:
- You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
- Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
- Weakness in an arm or leg
- Confusion or difficulty speaking
- Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
- You lose feeling in your weakened body area.
- You have electric shock-like feelings down your arms and legs when you flex or move your neck.
- You have sudden or increased trouble speaking, swallowing, or breathing.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have severe pain in your back, arms, or legs that worsens.
- You have sudden or worsened muscle weakness or loss of movement.
- You are not able to control when you urinate or have a bowel movement.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You feel depressed or anxious.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
- Use assistive devices as directed. These help protect you from injury. Examples include a walker or cane. Have someone install handrails in your home. These will help you get out of a bathtub or stand up from a toilet. Use a shower chair so you can sit while you shower. Sit down on the toilet or another chair to dry off and put on your clothes. Get help going up and down stairs if your legs are weak.
- Go to physical or occupational therapy if directed. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help strengthen weak muscles. An occupational therapist can show you ways to do your daily activities more easily. For example, light forks and spoons can be easier to use if you have hand weakness. You may also learn ways to organize your household items so you are not moving heavy items.
- Balance rest with exercise. Exercise can help increase your muscle strength and energy. Do not exercise for long periods at a time. Take breaks often to rest. Too much exercise can cause muscle strain or make you more tired. Ask your healthcare provider how much exercise is right for you.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Too much or too little food may cause weakness or tiredness. Ask your healthcare provider what a healthy amount of food is for you. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and fish, nuts, and cooked beans.
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can make your symptoms worse, and can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Do not use caffeine, alcohol, or illegal drugs. These may cause muscle twitching, which could lead to worsened weakness.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.