Malaise: Causes


What causes malaise?

Malaise can result from a wide variety of physical and emotional disturbances.

Emotional or psychological causes of malaise

Malaise may be caused by emotional or psychological disturbances including:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Stress

Physical causes of malaise

Malaise can also be caused by chronic physical disorders including:

  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)
  • Bacterial infections
  • Connective tissue diseases (disorders of the body’s connective tissue, such as lupus)
  • Fibromyalgia (chronic condition that causes pain, stiffness and tenderness)
  • Gastrointestinal conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease or infections
  • Heart disease
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Kidney disease (includes any type of kidney problem, such as kidney stoneskidney failure and kidney anomalies)
  • Lung disease
  • Viral infections, including HIV, mononucleosis, or other conditions

Serious or life-threatening causes of malaise

In some cases, malaise may be a symptom of a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated by a healthcare provider. These include:

  • Cancers
  • Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of malaise

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your malaise including:

  • How long have you felt severely fatigued?
  • Do you feel depressed?
  • When did you first notice the feelings of fatigue?
  • Are you in any physical pain or discomfort?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of malaise?

Complications of malaise will depend on the underlying disease or disorder. Malaise as a symptom of an emotional or psychological disturbance could lead to an inability to participate in daily tasks. Because malaise can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Difficulty performing daily tasks
  • Inability to participate normally in activities
  • Permanent or chronic pain
  • Severe discomfort or pain
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection
  • Withdrawal or depression


Fatigue. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Accessed May 20, 2011.

Depression. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Accessed May 20, 2011.