Unintentional weight loss may be a sign of some medical conditions. There are some health conditions that could make you lose weight unexpectedly.
Unexplained weight loss, or losing weight without trying, can be a cause for concern. It might indicate an underlying condition.
Sometimes there’s a simple, non-concerning explanation for your weight loss. But if your lifestyle is the same and you are still losing weight, it’s time to ask your doctor about whether or not you might have some underlying conditions.
A good rule of thumb is to see your doctor if you have lost a significant amount more than 5 percent of your weight within 6 to 12 months. In addition, take note of any other symptoms to talk over with your doctor.
Remember, not all weight loss is serious. It can happen after a life-changing or stressful event. However, unintentional weight loss may be a sign of some medical conditions. There are some health conditions that could make you lose weight unexpectedly.
“Hyperthyroidism is basically the opposite of hypothyroidism: Instead of your thyroid gland being under-active, it’s overactive. Having too much of those thyroid hormones circulating can kick your metabolism into overdrive and make you lose weight, Dr. Linda Omoniyi explains.”
Other symptoms include nervousness or irritability, fatigue or muscle weakness, feeling too hot, problems sleeping, shaky hands, a rapid and irregular heartbeat, diarrhea, and mood swings.
Persistent depressive disorder
According to Patricia Chiegboka, a psychologist, just as this condition can cause weight gain due to overeating, it can also cause weight loss due to under-eating. “If you are grappling with this and other symptoms of persistent depressive disorder or depression, that’s definitely worth noticing. Seek professional help, she said.”
Peptic ulcer disease
Peptic ulcer disease can influence your eating habits in a number of ways. Some people find that eating actually makes the pain of peptic ulcers worse, Dr. Omoniyi says, so they might try to eat as little as possible and lose weight as a result.
You might already know that type 1 and type 2 Diabetes happen when your blood sugar also known as glucose levels are persistently too high, and that diabetes is often associated with obesity.
But diabetes can also cause weight loss, according to Dr. Gabriel Omonaiye, along with issues like increased thirst, peeing often, fatigue, blurry vision, and more. “The weight loss comes into play if diabetes makes you pee frequently to get rid of excess sugar in your blood, which can also make you pee out calories, Omonaiye explains.”
When you have celiac disease, eating gluten that is a protein that’s found in wheat, barley, and rye triggers a pretty gnarly immune response in your small intestine. Overtime, this harms your small intestine’s lining and prevents absorption of nutrients, which can lead to weight loss. This intestinal damage can also cause diarrhea, fatigue, bloating, anemia, and more, Dr. Omonaiye revealed.
This actually isn’t a condition, it’s a collection of symptoms. If someone has dementia, neurological changes compromise their ability to think, remember, and reason as well as they used to.
So, if someone has a form of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, they will go through behavioral and personality changes, along with other potential issues like unintended weight loss.
“They may simply forget to eat,” Dr. Omoniyi says. “It may not even register sometimes that they are hungry, or they don’t know what to do to resolve the issue.” They may also experience reduced smell and taste, trouble swallowing, and distraction while eating,—all of which can contribute to weight loss.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is a catch-all term for disorders that cause persistent inflammation in your GI system. One of those disorders is Crohn’s disease. It causes hellish inflammation, typically in the last part of the small intestine and the colon, though it can affect any part of the GI tract, Dr. Omonaiye noted. “The inflammation frequently spreads deep into the layers of the bowel tissue. Then there’s ulcerative colitis, which is when you have inflammation and ulcers in the lining of your large intestine and rectum, Omonaiye says.”
Either type of inflammatory bowel disease can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, severe and bloody diarrhea, fatigue, mouth sores, and a reduced appetite.
According to Omonaiye, if you are dealing with these symptoms, you are probably going to lose weight.
Cancer is the general term for diseases that cause abnormal cells to quickly divide and spread. One of the first signs may be unexplained weight loss. This is common with cancers of the pancreas, lung, stomach, and esophagus.
Cancer increases inflammation. This promotes muscle wasting and disrupts appetite-regulating hormones. A growing tumor may also increase your resting energy expenditure (REE), or how much energy your body burns at rest. Early symptoms of cancer also include fever, fatigue, pain and skin changes. Many conditions can cause these symptoms. Sometimes, cancer doesn’t cause any symptoms.
Treatment depends on the type of cancer. Typical treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
This lesser-known disorder happens when your adrenal glands don’t produce enough of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. These hormones influence almost every organ and tissue in your body. Signs that something’s up with them include abdominal pain, abnormal periods, cravings for salty foods, dehydration, depression, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, sensitivity to cold, vomiting, and unexplained weight loss. The weight loss occurs due to a portion of your adrenal glands called your cortex. The cortex is the outer layer of these glands, and it produces a group of hormones called corticosteroids.
Corticosteroids include glucocorticoids, which influence your body’s ability to convert fuel from the food you eat into energy.
“Without sufficient glucocorticoids, your body has trouble properly utilizing the nutrients you eat, which can lead to weight loss, Omonaiye stated.”
When to see a doctor about unexpected weight loss
It’s normal for your weight to fluctuate a bit from day to day or even from morning to night. But a fluctuation that keeps you in a general weight range is different from persistent weight loss over time.
If that’s what you are noticing, it’s time to see a doctor. That’s especially true if you are dealing with significant weight changes along with any of the above additional symptoms indicating that something’s wrong.