- Unexplained weight loss is often a red flag that something more serious is happening.
- Quick or rapid unexpected weight loss needs to be addressed by your doctor.
- Health conditions and disorders that may cause weight loss include depression, heart failure, and cancer.
Hopping on the scale and seeing the numbers go down might not seem like something to worry about, but it could be a concern if you’re not sure why you’re suddenly dropping pounds.
Although it can be easy to brush off the sudden weight loss, if it’s not the result of diet, exercise, or lifestyle changes, it could indicate certain health conditions that need to be addressed. If you’re concerned about unexpected or unexplained weight loss, you may want to visit a healthcare professional to receive a proper diagnosis.
Here are nine health conditions and disorders that can be the cause of sudden or unexplained weight loss.
Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes can cause weight loss and dehydration
“The extremely elevated blood sugar levels cause compensatory mechanisms such as renal sugar wasting that helps rid the body of excess sugar by dumping it into urine and causing excessive urination,” Dr. Alexea M. Gaffney, a pediatrician, told INSIDER. This excessive urination can also contribute to weight loss and dehydration.
Rheumatoid arthritis can alter your appetite and cause painful swelling
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, swelling, and pain in and around the joints.
Board-certified cardiologist and weight management specialist Dr. Luiza Petre told INSIDER that inflammatory conditions where your immune system mistakenly assaults your healthy tissues can alter your appetite, causing you to lose weight. Conditions like this can also cause inflammation in the gut, which Petre said interferes with the absorption of nutrients, potentially leading to unexplained weight loss.
Diseases related to your bowels and intestines can result in weight loss and improper nutrition absorption
Certain health conditions that affect the digestive system can cause weight loss, indicating there’s something more serious going on. “Celiac disease(autoimmune disorder) is when the ingestion of gluten causes damage to the small intestine, usually accompanied by diarrhoea and bloating,” explained Petre. “This reaction hampers your ability to absorb nutrients properly.”
Additionally, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s can also result in weight loss due to malabsorption.
A common side effect of depression is a loss of appetite
A common side effect of clinical depression is a loss of appetite, which can result in weight loss. “Oftentimes patients are so mired in depression that they don’t notice the weight loss,” explained Petre.
If you’re feeling depressed, even if you’re not experiencing weight loss, you may want to consult with your doctor or a healthcare professional. Other symptoms of depression can include irritability, indecision, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, trouble sleeping, and difficulty thinking or concentrating.
Pancreatitis can cause weight loss and nausea
Petre said issues with your pancreas, which creates enzymes that help with digestion, can cause unexpected weight loss. “An inflamed pancreas, or pancreatitis, causes weight loss because it means the body doesn’t make enough enzymes for the proper digestion of food,” she explained.
Other symptoms of pancreatitis include diarrhoea, stomach pain, and nausea.
Kidney disease can mess with your metabolism
If the kidneys aren’t functioning well, Dr. Susan Besser, family medicine expert with Mercy Personal Physicians at Overlea, told INSIDER there’s a good chance your metabolism isn’t working well either. In addition to weight loss, other common symptoms of kidney disease include decreased urination (or excessive urination), fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and decreased mental sharpness.
Any type of cancer can cause unexplained weight loss
Most people with a cancer diagnosis will lose weight at some point during the course of the disease. That’s because “any type of cancer can cause unexplained weight loss,” explained Besser. Since the symptoms of cancer are quite variable, Besser said you might also have fatigue, pain, a mass or lump, or no symptoms other than the weight loss.
Petre added that several types of cancer, including ulcers or tumours in the intestines or stomach, can trigger inflammation or malabsorption issues that may also lead to weight loss. “tumours in the colon, bowels, stomach, and esophagus are the most common for causing quick, unexpected weight loss,” explained Petre.
Hyperthyroidism can cause weight loss and tremors
If you’re one of the millions of people with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), you may be experiencing unintentional weight loss.
“When the thyroid gland is overactive, it creates too much thyroid hormone that increases metabolism,” Dr. Robert Segal, co-founder of LabFinder.com, told INSIDER. This causes an increase in your metabolic rate, which Segal said, increases calorie burn. Other symptoms to watch for include rapid or irregular heartbeat, nervousness, tremors, and sweating.
Heart failure can cause you to feel full even if you have just begun eating
If you’re experiencing unexplained weight loss along with other symptoms of heart failure (shortness of breath, fatigue, rapid or irregular heartbeats, etc.), it might be time to talk with your doctor. Segal said congestive heart failure causes the digestive system not to get enough blood, which results in nausea and feeling full even if you just started eating. This can result in a decreased appetite, which can lead to weight loss.
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