Healthy Living

Medical Conditions That Are Associated with Lethargy

Medical Conditions Are Associated with Lethargy

Key Takeaways

  • Medical conditions such as premenstrual syndrome and medicinal side effects as well as mental health issues, for example, depression, may result in lethargy.
  • Symptoms may abruptly show up for which medical attention should be immediately considered. If you begin vomiting blood or have rectal bleeding, get someone to rush you to the emergency room.
  • Among the medical conditions associated with lethargy are an underactive thyroid, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, congestive heart failure symptoms, stroke, sleep apnoea, anemia, and glandular fever. It is important to have persistent lethargy, especially when accompanied by other symptoms, immediately checked out and diagnosed by a medical doctor. 

What are The Symptoms of Lethargy?

Lethargy symptoms include:

• Sluggishness
• Being moody
• Decreased level of alertness
• Low energy levels
• Fatigue and lack of motivation
• Depression
• Weight loss
• Sweating and diarrhea

Medical conditions such as premenstrual syndrome and medicinal side effects as well as mental health issues, for example, depression, may result in lethargy. Depression can be major or postpartum depression.

When to seek medical attention

Lethargy caused by depression is likely to be harmful, and medical attention should be resorted to when one begins to have major suicidal thoughts as a result of feeling unworthy. Also, if you are beginning to have thoughts about hurting someone else, seek help.
Stubborn lethargy that does not cease even with good self–care needs medical attention. Additionally, symptoms may abruptly show up for which medical attention should be immediately considered. Such symptoms include:

• Chest pain
• Increased heartbeat
• Headaches that tend to be severe
• Inability to move one side of the body
• Minimum responses to stimuli
• Loss of consciousness
• Breath shortness

If you begin vomiting blood or have rectal bleeding, get someone to rush you to the emergency room.

Lethargy in babies

Lethargy develops quite slowly in babies and may be difficult to notice.

In babies, symptoms include:

• Difficulty waking up and tends to be sluggish and drowsy. They tend to sleep more due to low energy levels.
• Decreased alertness and unresponsive to sounds
• Fever that exceeds 102 degrees Fahrenheit
• Rashes that suddenly emerge
Dehydration - This can be noticed by less wet diapers than usual.

You may know your baby is unwell through:

  • Irritability - The baby can communicate only by crying. If it cries for long and does not respond to cuddling, it may be unwell.
  • Lack of consciousness - When you get worried about your baby oversleeping and it cannot wake up, or when the baby cannot move, make eye contact, or acknowledge anyone else.

Babies may be lethargic due to:

• Malnutrition
Meningitis
• Stress
Down syndrome
• Panic attacks
• Fever is the most common cause

How is lethargy diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on your medical history, including previous medical conditions and histories after which a physical examination will be conducted. Physical examination is carried out to determine the cause of lethargy; it can be done through listening to your heartbeat and lungs. It also includes testing your mental responsiveness.

Basically, diagnosis is dependent on the doctor’s assumption on the cause. Moreover, imaging may be used for further diagnosis if the cause is assumed to be the result of a head injury, meningitis, or a stroke. Computed tomography (CT) scan or an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan may be used.

Medical conditions associated with lethargy

1. Underactive thyroid

The metabolic processes of the body are regulated by the thyroid. Disorders of the thyroid can affect its functioning as well as structure. When the thyroid is considered underactive, it means your thyroxin, thyroid hormone, is too little.

This is characterized by painful muscles and an increase in weight. It is diagnosed through a blood test. It can be treated by taking pills (levothyroxine) that act as hormonal replacement. This condition is not curable but with treatment, you can lead a comfortable normal life.

2. Chronic fatigue syndrome

This is an incapacitating tiredness that persists for more than six months and does not cease after rest. It interferes with one’s ability to carry out daily duties. Its diagnosis is based on the signs and symptoms listed below:

Fatigue for a period longer than six months that does not occur as an outcome of medication and is not caused by exertion
• Reduced physical activity
• Memory impairment
• Swelling or tender lymph nodes
• Muscle and joint pains
• Shortness of breath  
• Allergies and sudden food sensitivity

Its diagnosis is based on medical history, an in-depth examination by a medical practitioner, and a few laboratory tests. You should note that it is not only associated with lethargy but can as well be an outcome thereof. It is also possibly due to an infection, which can be bacterial or viral, immune system failure, and hormonal imbalance.

Treatment varies from person to person due to different reactions to the medication. The main treatments are pain medication to ease the pain and sleeping problems, exercise therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

3. Diabetes

This is a condition where the body's blood sugar levels are high either as a result of inadequate insulin production or the inability of the body's cells to respond to insulin produced.

Diabetes can be:

Type 1 - where the body is unable to produce insulin, or
Type 2 - where the body either produces insufficient insulin or the cells are resistant to insulin. The obese and overweight are likely to develop it.

The symptoms are:

• Blurred vision
• Weight loss
• Lethargy
• Abdominal pains

Diagnosis is done in three major tests; the AIC test, Fasting Plasma Glucose test (FPG) and the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT).

Diabetes can be easily controlled and treated by insulin injection for those suffering from type 1 diabetes, while those with type 2 diabetes have tablets administered to them as well as special diets. If uncontrolled, the disease can have serious adverse effects, including eventual death.

4. Congestive heart failure symptoms

Congestive heart failure is a condition where the heart functions do not meet the body's requirements. This means the heart functions are slowed, blood is pumped at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases.

This condition is caused by:

• Artery disease. Diseases of the coronary artery (clogged or narrowed arteries) lead to slower blood and oxygen supply.
• Heart Attack. It happens as a result of a clogged coronary artery that suddenly blocks the entry of blood into the heart, damaging the heart muscles and inhibiting its normal function.
• Infections or alcohol may damage the heart muscles.
• High blood pressure, kidney disease, or thyroid and other diseases that may overwork the heart. Having several of these diseases at once might also weaken the heart's performance.

The symptoms include:

• Retention of water and fluids in the body that is shown by swollen legs and ankles, and weight gain.
• Weakness, fatigue, and dizziness. Less blood to your muscles leads to feeling weak and tired.
• Faster heartbeat since the heart is struggling to pump enough blood to the body.
Shortness of breath as a result of congested lungs. It can also be indicated by wheezing.

Diagnosis is based on your medical history and current symptoms. The physician will want to know about your lifestyle, for example, whether you smoke or not, and other conditions that may result to heart failure. After this, you will be physically examined by the physician listening to your heart beat, and other laboratory tests may be carried out.

Treatment is available and is based on curbing the likelihood of disease advancement. It is important to look into your lifestyle, too.

5. Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a condition whereby the throat closes or constricts when a person is sleeping, thus continuously interrupting breathing. This leads to a drop in oxygen levels in the blood and bad snoring. Due to the breathing difficulty, you are forced to wake up in the night more often and develop a feeling of exhaustion the following day. This condition mostly occurs in middle-aged men who are overweight. It is made worse by smoking and drinking alcohol.

There are 2 forms of breathing interruption attributed to obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA):

• Hypopnoea: This is the partial blockage of your air passages that leads to a reduction of airflow of more than fifty percent for a period of ten seconds or even more. 
• Apnoea: This is whereby the soft tissue and muscles in the throat collapse and relax sufficiently so as to cause total airway blockage. It is referred to as apnoea if the flow of air remains blocked for over ten seconds.

Individuals suffering from OSA may have repeated hypopnoea and apnoea episodes all through the night. In severe cases, these episodes can develop about once in every 2 or 3 minutes. At times, doctors refer to this condition as “obstructive sleep apnoea-hypopnoea syndrome”, since many patients suffering from OSA have episodes of both hypopnoea and apnoea.

6. Anemia

This is one of the frequent medical reasons for a person feeling regularly rundown. This condition affects approximately one in every twenty men and also postmenopausal women. It may, however, be more frequent in women still experiencing periods.

Normally, you will have the feeling of laziness, you will easily get tired, and the muscles will have a heavy feeling.

There are a number of issues that can bring about a deficiency of iron in your body. The most frequent cause in post-menopausal women and in men is bleeding in the intestines and stomach. This may come as a result of bowel cancer, a stomach ulcer, or the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

Pregnancy and heavy periods in women of reproductive age are the frequent sufferers of a lack of iron, since the body requires extra iron for the baby at the time of pregnancy, while menstruating involves loss of blood. When left untreated, iron deficiency anemia may make you prone to infection and illness. This is because iron deficiency affects the immune system of the body.

Iron deficiency anemia that is severe may bring up your chances of having complications that affect your lungs or heart, like tachycardia (abnormal fast heartbeat) or heart failure whereby the heart cannot sufficiently pump blood throughout the body at the correct pressure.

Women who are pregnant with untreated or severe anemia have an increased chance of complications prior to and following birth.

7. Stroke

This occurs when the flow of blood to your brain has been interrupted. When blood with oxygen fails to reach your brain, the brain cells starts to die and you may suffer permanent brain damage. There are 2 forms of brain stroke: hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke. With ischemic stroke, the blood flowing to your brain is chunked by a blood clot. For the hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel that is weak bursts and there is bleeding in your brain.

A stroke may lead to permanent or temporary disability depending on the stroke's severity and the amount of time the flow of blood to your brain remained interrupted. You have higher chances of getting cured and keeping off disability or severe brain damage if you detect stroke signs early and get medical attention.

- Stroke symptoms

You will have a better outlook if you detect stroke symptoms early and seek help immediately. When there is early intervention, the period the flow of blood in the brain is disrupted is reduced. The symptoms of stroke may occur gradually in hours or even days. If you experience a mini-stroke, the symptoms will be temporary and normally get well within 1 or 2 hours. Due to this, you may mistakenly attribute it to a migraine, stress, or nerve complications.

• Unexpected weakness

Numbness or unexpected weakness in the legs, arms, or face is normally a symptom of stroke, particularly if the weakness is on one side of your body. When smiling, you will notice that one side of the face droops. When raising your 2 arms, it may be difficult to lift one side. Stroke may result in paralysis of one section of one’s body depending on the stroke's severity.

• Unexpected loss of balance

You may have difficulties when walking, dizziness and/or loss of coordination because of weakness on one side of your body.

• Unexpected headache

You may be experiencing a stroke if you have a sudden severe headache without any cause. Alongside this headache, you may feel dizzy or vomit.

It is difficult to recognize this symptom or problems with vision as stroke signs if you normally have migraine headaches. Discuss with your physician on how to identify if you have a migraine or a stroke. It is important to visit your doctor immediately if you suspect that you have a stroke symptom, since strokes can be fatal.

8. Glandular Fever

This is a frequent viral infection that results in fatigue accompanied by sore throat, fever, and also swollen glands. This type of fever normally affects young adults. The most frequent symptoms include:

• Fever (a high temperature)
• Swollen glands in the neck
• A sore throat that is severe
• Extreme tiredness (fatigue)

Also referred to as infectious mononucleosis, glandular fever normally heals within 4-6 weeks, although the tiredness can go on for a number of months.

- What causes glandular fever?

EBV (Epstein - Barr virus) causes glandular fever. This virus is normally found in infected people’s saliva and spreads through the following:

• Exposure to sneezes and coughs
• Kissing
• Sharing drinking and eating utensils like glasses and cups