Malaise is described as any of the following:

  • a feeling of overall weakness
  • a feeling of discomfort
  • a feeling like you have an illness
  • simply not feeling well

It often occurs with fatigue and an inability to restore a feeling of health through proper rest.

Sometimes, malaise happens suddenly. Other times, it may develop gradually and persist for a long period. The reason behind your malaise can be extremely difficult to determine because it can be the result of so many conditions.

However, once your doctor diagnoses the cause of your malaise, treating the condition can help you feel better.

What Causes Malaise?

Medical Conditions

There are numerous possible causes of malaise. Anytime your body undergoes a disruption, such as an injury, disease, or trauma, you can experience malaise. The possible causes listed here are far from exhaustive. It’s important not to jump to conclusions about the cause of your malaise until you’ve seen your doctor.

People with musculoskeletal conditions often experience a general sense of discomfort and unease. Malaise is a typical symptom of various forms or arthritis, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Acute viral disorders, such as the following can also cause malaise:

  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • fibromyalgia
  • Lyme disease
  • hepatitis

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a particularly complex disorder that is characterized by a feeling of overall pain, fatigue, and malaise.

Chronic diseases such as the following are known to cause malaise:

  • severe anemia
  • congestive heart failure
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • diabetes

Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety can often lead to malaise. However, it’s also possible for a person with malaise to begin to feel depression and anxiety, so it can be difficult to determine if the malaise or depression occurred first.

Other causes of malaise can include:

  • parasitic infections
  • the flu
  • mononucleosis
  • cancer
  • adrenal gland dysfunction
  • diabetes


Medications that can also put you at risk for malaise include:

  • anticonvulsants
  • some medications used to treat hypertension and heart disease, specifically beta-blockers
  • medications used to treat psychiatric disorders
  • antihistamines

Some medications may not cause malaise on their own but can lead to malaise when combined with other medications.

Malaise and Fatigue

Fatigue often occurs along with malaise. An individual experiencing malaise will often also feel exhausted or lethargic in addition to a generalized feeling of being unwell.

Like malaise, fatigue has a large number of possible explanations. It can be due to lifestyle factors, illnesses, and certain medications.

When Should I See My Doctor?

You should see your doctor if you feel overwhelmed by the feelings of malaise or if your malaise lasts longer than seven days. You should also speak to your doctor if your malaise occurs with other symptoms.

It’s important to be your own health advocate if you’re experiencing malaise. Because it’s difficult to determine the cause of malaise, being proactive about seeking a diagnosis will only help your condition. Ask questions and speak up if you feel you need to continue a conversation with your doctor about your health.

How Is Malaise Diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a physical examination. They’ll look for an obvious physical condition that could be the cause of your malaise or could give clues about its cause.

Your doctor will also ask questions about your malaise. Be prepared to provide details such as approximately when the malaise started and whether the malaise seems to come and go, or is constantly present.

Your doctor will also likely ask you questions about recent travel, additional symptoms you’re experiencing, any challenges you have in completing daily activities, and why you think you’re having these challenges. They’ll ask you what medications you’re taking, if you use drugs or alcohol, and whether you have any known health issues or conditions.

Your doctor may have a better idea of what’s causing you to feel generally unwell after the exam. At that point, they may order tests to confirm or rule out one or more diagnoses. These tests may include blood tests, X-rays, and other diagnostic tools.

What Are the Treatment Options for Malaise?

Malaise is not a condition in and of itself. Therefore, treatment will aim at addressing the underlying cause. It’s impossible to predict what this treatment will consist of because malaise can be due to a wide variety of conditions.

Treatment for the cause of your malaise can help control the feeling and prevent it from becoming overwhelming. You can minimize your malaise by:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • exercising regularly
  • eating a balanced, healthy diet
  • limiting stress

Malaise can be difficult to prevent because it has many possible causes. Keeping note of your physical and mental well-being can help you identify the causes and triggers of your malaise. Keep a journal to help you track your malaise, and present your findings to your doctor if necessary.