Lethargy: Definition, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment You Should Know

Lethargy: Definition, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment You Should Know

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A lack of mental or physical motivation can both contribute to and be a symptom of lethargy. Lethargy can also refer to feelings of exhaustion. It is possible that this is an indicator of a health problem.

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What is lethargy?

The symptoms of lethargy are feelings of exhaustion, sleepiness, and sluggishness. This sluggishness could be mental or physical in nature. Lethargic is a common descriptor for those who exhibit these symptoms.

A mental or physical issue that isn’t being addressed could be the underlying cause of lethargy.

What are the symptoms of lethargy?

The following symptoms may be brought on by lethargy, in any combination:

a shift in emotional state

weariness can lead to lower attentiveness as well as a diminished ability to think.

a lack of energy and a lethargic attitude

Lethargy can cause a person to appear as though they are in a stupor. It’s possible that they travel at a slower pace than usual.

What causes lethargy?

The symptoms of lethargy can be caused by a wide variety of acute illnesses. This may include the common cold or a virus that affects the stomach. Lethargy can also be caused by a variety of other bodily or medical disorders, such as the following:

carbon monoxide poisoning

dehydration \sfever



hydrocephalus or brain swelling

renal failure

A disease known as Lyme


disorders of the pituitary gland, such as cancer of the pituitary gland

nutrition deficiencies

sleep apnea


harm to the brain caused by trauma

Mental health disorders are another potential cause of lethargy in patients. These are the following:


major depressive disorder

postpartum depression

premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

It’s possible that taking certain medications, such opioids could cause you to feel lethargic as a side effect.

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When should I seek medical help for lethargy?

It is possible that symptoms of lethargy demand immediate medical treatment, particularly if they appeared out of nowhere. If you are feeling lethargic and also have any of the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention:

chest pain

unresponsiveness or limited response

incapacity to move your limbs on one side of your body confusion, such as forgetting your name, the date, or where you are in the world loss of sensation on one side of your body

rapid beating of the heart

facial paralysis that can affect either side of your face.

a temporary lapse in consciousness

a haemorrhage in the rectal region

acute pain in the head

a difficult time breathing and vomiting blood

There should usually be cause for concern whenever there is a discernible shift in behaviour that is accompanied by listlessness. If you are feeling lethargic and have also been having thoughts of hurting yourself, you should get medical assistance as soon as possible. If you don’t already have a primary care physician, the Healthline FindCare tool will help you locate some potential candidates in your area.

Along with your fatigue, you should also consider scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician if you suffer any of the following symptoms:

problems with aches and pains that do not improve despite treatment

difficulty having trouble sleeping and being unable to tolerate extreme temperatures

a burning sensation in the eyes persistent weariness lasting more than two weeks feelings of melancholy or agitation

inflamed neck glands

anomalous weight gain or decrease that cannot be explained

Lethargy in babies or young children

Lethargy is a symptom that can even affect very young children or infants. The following are examples of symptoms in infants that may require prompt medical attention:

It is difficult to bring a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius).

Symptoms of dehydration include things like sobbing without tears, dry lips, or a few wet diapers; abrupt rash; vomiting forcibly; and vomiting for more than 12 hours.

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How is lethargy diagnosed?

Your doctor will typically collect a thorough medical history from you in order to explore any preexisting issues you may have had.

They might also carry out a physical examination, which might include the following things:

putting your trust in your chest and your heart.

listening for sounds and checking for pain in the bowels

measuring your mental awareness

In most cases, the diagnostic testing that is done is determined by what your doctor believes may be the underlying problem. If your doctor suspects that you have a thyroid disorder, for instance, he or she may request blood tests to establish the level of thyroid hormones in your body and whether or not they are too high or too low.

If your doctor has reason to believe that the cause is brain-related, such as a head injury, stroke, or meningitis, they may recommend that you undergo imaging examinations, such as a CT or MRI scan.

How is lethargy treated?

The treatment for lethargy is determined by the underlying cause of the condition.

If your lethargy is caused by depression or another mental health issue, for instance, they may recommend antidepressants as a treatment option for you.

You can lessen the tiredness associated with lethargy by engaging in healthful behaviours when you’re at home. Examples include:

Make sure you get lots of fluids.

by maintaining a nutritious diet, obtaining sufficient sleep, and lowering stress levels.

If you find that these healthy practises aren’t helping your symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your healthcare professional.

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