The Causes of Malaise and Associated Illnesses

a senior man sleeping on sofa with newspaper
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Malaise (pronounced muh-laze) is the general feeling of discomfort, lack of well-being or illness that can start slowly or quickly and may accompany almost any health condition.


A disease, health condition or medication can cause malaise. By assessing other symptoms that are present with malaise, it is easier to determine the true cause. For example, the likely cause of malaise for arthritis patients is joint pain and other joint symptoms. Symptoms you might think indicate malaise, but are not actually signs of this condition include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Aches
  • Sleepiness
  • Weakness

Associated Diseases, Health Conditions, and Medications

Malaise is a non-specific symptom associated with nearly all infectious, metabolic, or systemic diseases. It is often accompanied by fatigue. Diseases, health conditions and medications associated with malaise include:

  • Connective tissue diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Short-term infectious diseases, including influenza, Lyme disease, and pneumonia
  • Long-term infectious diseases, including AIDS, tuberculosis, and chronic active hepatitis
  • Heart and lung diseases, including congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Endocrine or metabolic diseases, including diabetes and thyroid disease
  • Cancers, including colon cancer and leukemia
  • Medications, including antihistamines, beta-blockers, and psychiatric medication

When to Call the Doctor

You should consult your doctor about malaise if you have other symptoms which also point to illness or if your symptoms persist for one week or more with or without any other symptoms, according to advice from Medline Plus, a National Institutes of Health website.

How to Prepare for Your Doctor Visit

Getting appropriate treatment for your condition may help with malaise. During your appointment, the doctor will take your medical history, give you a physical examination, and order diagnostic tests if needed.

Possible diagnostic tests include a blood test or an x-ray. You can make the most of your appointment by taking time to prepare the answers to some standard questions your doctor is likely to ask, including:

  • How long have you had malaise?
  • What are your other symptoms and other medical issues?
  • Does the malaise come and go or is it constant?
  • What prescription and over-the-counter medications do you take?
  • Have you taken a trip lately?

Post-Exertional Malaise

There is no medical test to determine if you have post-exertional malaise (PEM), but that doesn't mean it's not a real phenomenon. This type of malaise is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome and occurs after an activity, such as exercise or other muscle exertion.

PEM can present with similar symptoms to kinesophobia, the fear of motion because you feel vulnerable to painfully injuring, or reinjuring, yourself. Sometimes a PEM patient may develop a fear of engaging in the activities that cause her symptoms.

This can lead to additional health issues as exercise can alleviate symptoms of some medical conditions and is important for good health. Symptoms of PEM, which are similar to fatigue, may last for days or weeks and include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Although patients with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus frequently suffer from fatigue, PEM is a distinct condition.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Malaise. MedlinePlus. 2015.
  • Malaise. 2/24/2006.
  • Spotila, Jennifer. Post-Exertional Malaise: Perception and Reality. Solve ME/CFS Initiative.