The amount you weigh depends on various factors, such as your age, calorie intake and your overall health. It is natural for your weight to fluctuate a little. You may have stomach flu and lose some weight or eat more over the holidays and gain weight. These slight fluctuations should not cause you to worry.
However, if you lose a significant amount of weight (over five percent of your body weight) over a short period and it is not because you are eating less or exercising more, you need to see a doctor. Unexplained weight loss can be a sign of a serious medical condition. Here are five health issues that could cause you to lose weight suddenly.
- Age-related malnutrition
Later in life, weight loss is associated with a higher risk of death. As you age, your stomach empties more slowly, which makes you feel full for longer. Some of the brain signals that control appetite and fullness are weaker.
Medications can also affect your appetite. This may cause you to eat less, lose weight and fail to get enough nutrients when you’re an older adult. Older adults need to eat well and make sure they eat enough protein to help their bodies carry out important functions, like stabilizing blood sugar and building muscle mass.
- An over-active thyroid
Weight loss is a common symptom of an overactive thyroid. Your thyroid is the gland in your neck that regulates your metabolism. If it releases too many hormones, this results in some physical changes.
Increased hunger, fatigue, muscle weakness, feeling hot all the time, mood changes, sleeping problems and heart palpitations are all common symptoms of an overactive thyroid. Treatment involves taking medication to prevent your thyroid from over-producing hormones.
The onset of diabetes can cause weight loss. If you feel very thirsty and you’re peeing all the time, you should see a doctor. Your body is literally getting rid of glucose when you pee because it is unable to absorb it and this drives your thirst.
When your body does not get glucose from the blood into the cells to use as energy, it starts to burn fat and muscle for fuel. This is what causes your weight to drop. Unexplained weight loss more commonly happens when an individual develops Type 1 diabetes but it can occur in some people with Type 2 diabetes.
- Muscle loss
Muscle loss, or muscle atrophy, is when your muscle shrinks or wastes away. Muscle loss and unexplained weight loss often go together.
Muscle loss may occur due to inactivity after an injury, a stroke, aging, or a disease like multiple sclerosis. You can prevent muscle loss through proper nutrition and exercise or by undergoing physical therapy after experiencing an injury or stroke.
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When first diagnosed with cancer, almost half of all patients report unexplained weight loss. Cancer symptoms vary depending on the type, severity and location of the disease but unexplained weight loss can be a result.
Types of cancer that commonly cause weight loss are those that affect the digestive tract, such as liver cancer, stomach cancer and esophageal cancer as well as lung cancer.
A tumor in the esophagus can make it hard to swallow and tumors in the stomach or intestines can cause inflammation and prevent proper absorption of nutrients. Radiation and chemotherapy used for cancer treatment can also cause weight loss as they commonly cause a decrease in appetite.