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Weakness

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is weakness?

Weakness is a loss of muscle strength. You may have weakness in a single muscle or in a group of muscles.

What causes weakness?

The exact cause of your weakness may not be known. The following are common causes of weakness:

  • A problem in your brain, nerves, or muscles
  • A condition such as dehydration, a heart problem, infection, or pregnancy
  • A mental condition, such as anxiety or depression
  • A drug such as steroids, heart medicine, or muscle relaxants
  • Alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Lack of movement, such as from wearing a cast or splint, or you are on bed rest

How may the cause of my weakness be diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask when your signs and symptoms started and what makes your weakness worse. Tell him about any medical conditions you have. He will test your muscle strength, reflexes, and sense of touch. He will also check how far you can move or lift your weakened area. You may also need any of the following:

  • A muscle biopsy is a procedure used to take a muscle sample. This may happen if your blood tests do not show the cause of your weakness.
  • X-ray pictures may show what is causing your weakness.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • 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. Get help going up and down stairs if your legs are weak.
  • Do range of motion exercises as directed. These exercises help increase movement in your weakened body part. This may happen if you have chronic weakness. Your healthcare provider or physical therapist will teach you exercises to do.
  • Exercise and rest as directed. You may need more rest than usual. Balance rest with exercise. Exercise can help increase your muscle strength and energy. Do not exercise for long periods at a time. Too much exercise can cause muscle strain or make you more tired. Ask your healthcare provider how much exercise is right for you.
  • Eat 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.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns
    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
    • Trouble breathing
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing
  • 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.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You feel depressed or anxious.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.

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