All about unexplained weight loss

Weight loss is weight loss, voluntary or not. Emme is considered significant when it reaches 5% of the weight in less than 6 months.

Above all, losing weight in a brutal and extreme way can be the sign of a disease or a deficiency of the body.

Any significant weight loss for no apparent reason should alert: it may be related to an illness or psychological disorder. Knowing the different causes and consequences helps to better prevent and treat unexplained weight loss.

Weight loss, what is it?

Weight loss refers to weight loss of any kind. It can be voluntary (the consequence of a diet) or involuntary.

When it comes to rapid and unexpected weight loss, when should you worry? Unexplained weight loss is a symptom of potential concern, especially when it corresponds to a loss of at least 10 % of weight in less than a year. This threshold is random, but is often used as a “benchmark” by the medical community (which also sometimes uses the threshold of 5 % less weight in 6 months).

Weight loss can be isolated or accompanied by other, very varied symptoms.

Finally, when it is not voluntary, rapid weight loss can be the sign of a serious underlying disease, such as cancer. If in doubt, it is important to take this into consideration and consult your doctor. Tests and blood tests can be done to try to understand the cause.

The causes of significant weight loss

Weight loss can have a multitude of causes, but 50% of cases of weight loss involve psychological causes and require a medical check-up. Depression, in particular, often results in a persistent loss of appetite.

Then come the organic causes, such as digestive diseases. But, a large number of pathologies, such as cardiovascular, endocrine or autoimmune pathologies, can cause significant weight loss.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the causes of weight loss:

  • Cancer: Weight loss is common and may be one of the first symptoms. About 40 % of people diagnosed with cancer report losing weight in the past few months.
  • Celiac disease: it is frequently accompanied by weight loss, because food is poorly absorbed and transit is accelerated (diarrhea).
  • Gastric ulcer: it is generally responsible for a loss of appetite, gastric pain and digestive difficulties which can lead to weight loss.
  • Crohn’s disease: Along with other inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s disease is often associated with weight loss.
  • Diabetes: particularly type 1 diabetes which manifests itself in severe dehydration and rapid weight loss.
  • Heart failure: although it causes water retention, and therefore weight gain, heart failure can also, especially at an advanced stage, cause loss of muscle mass and weight.
  • Infectious disease (HIV infection, hepatitis, tuberculosis, etc.)
  • Hypo or hyperthyroidism: like other endocrine diseases, the imbalance of thyroid hormones can have an influence on weight.
  • Neurological disease (dementia, Parkinson’s disease, etc.).
  • Respiratory disease: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease causes weight loss.

Finally, the abuse of certain substances (drugs, tobacco, alcohol or medication) can also lead to weight loss.

In the elderly, loss of appetite is common, leading to sometimes severe malnutrition and rapid weight loss.

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