Involuntary weight loss and what conditions can cause it

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The sudden loss of weight or involuntary weight loss is a situation that should always concern us when it is not the result of a voluntary weight loss program. As well it could be the submission to a strict diet.

This reality can be due to three main causes:

  • The sudden voluntary weight loss.
  • Sudden involuntary weight loss.
  • Miscellaneous sudden weight loss.

The sudden voluntary weight loss

As we have already mentioned, sudden voluntary weight loss could occur as a consequence of a strict spontaneous weight loss program. Or, on the other hand, product of the existence of a pathology of a psychological nature as is anorexia nervosa or a state of depression.

However, a sudden voluntary weight loss can also be the consequence of some kind of medical recommendation. In other words, this is due to the treatment and control of diseases such as diabetes or in cases of morbid obesity.

Sudden involuntary weight loss

When a sudden involuntary weight loss occurs, it is most likely that we are facing some pathological condition that has resulted in this abrupt decrease in weight.

In these cases, the body loses not only adipose tissue, but also fluid and muscle mass than in the most extreme or terminal cases; and they can lead to cachexia.

Miscellaneous sudden weight loss

This type of weight loss occurs as a derivation of disorders of various kinds, such as a drug addiction problem, changes in the body as a result of advanced age, uncontrolled intake of laxatives, or the body’s response to medication for diseases such as cancer or problems with the thyroid glands.

In cases where the weight loss does not respond to a voluntary diet, these do not constitute a disease in itself; but a symptom that something is wrong with the body.

When this fact happens, weight loss is accompanied by other manifestations such as a feeling of weakness, lack of energy, loss of appetite, extreme fatigue and malnutrition.

When is there a condition of involuntary sudden weight loss?

When we refer to an involuntary weight loss, the body registers a weight loss of around 4.5 kg in a period between 6 and 12 months or in an even less time; without a known cause.

Additionally, the loss of sizes in the wardrobe becomes evident, which, if accompanied by a feeling of general malaise, indicates that the time has come to visit a specialist in general medicine; who will give guidance as to the possible reason for this condition, or will refer the person to the most appropriate specialist.

In cases where the sudden loss of body weight is related to a pathological condition, the possible diseases that could be generating this situation are the following:

Chronic disease

In them we can include diseases such as cancer (whether diagnosed or not), more than all those that are located in areas that compromise the absorption of nutrients such as the digestive tract, the mouth, the pancreas or the stomach, diabetes of any of its types, disorders of the thyroid gland, obstructive disease of the lungs, among others.

Infectious diseases

Diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis lead to an abrupt reduction in appetite within their symptoms, which causes a lesser amount of food to be ingested and therefore; a significant loss of body mass.

Other associated pathologies

There are various conditions that are usually associated with an abrupt loss of weight, and that are of various nature such as some heart diseases.

The so-called Crohn’s disease, various stomach and intestinal ulcers, Addison’s disease (affects the adrenal gland), some dementia states and neurological pathologies, etc.

Early diagnosis of sudden weight loss:

In principle, if it is considered that a loss of body mass is being experienced without an obvious reason for it to happen; the services of a general practitioner should be sought. He will proceed to carry out the rigorous examinations that are usually the following:

  • Analysis of blood, feces and urine.
  • Chest X-rays.
  • Magnetic resonance.
  • Others in the judgment of the treating physician.

Once the results are obtained, it will guide the person in reference to their condition and will subsequently refer them to the corresponding specialist such as an oncologist, a psychiatrist or an endocrinologist; depending on the case.


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