Unexplained weight loss

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Unexplained weights loss, or losing weight without trying — particularly if it’s significant or persistent — may be a sign of an underlying medical disorder.

The point at which unexplained weight loss becomes a medical concern is not exact. But many doctors agree that a medical evaluation is called for if you lose more than 5 percent of your weigh in six months to a year, especially if you’re an older adult. For example, a 5 percent weigh loss in someone who is 160 pounds (72 kilograms) is 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms). In someone who is 200 pounds (90 kilograms), it’s 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms).

Your weights is affected by your calorie intake, activity level, overall health, age, nutrient absorption, and economic and social factors.

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) exacerbation — worsening of symptoms
Crohn’s disease (a type of inflammatory bowel disease)
Dementia
Dental problems
Depression (major depressive disorder)
Diabetes
Heart failure
HIV/AIDS
Hypercalcemia
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
Medications
Parkinson’s disease
Peptic ulcer
Substance abuse (alcohol, cocaine, other)
Tuberculosis
Ulcerative colitis

If you’re losing weight without trying and you’re concerned about it, consult your doctor — as a rule of thumb, losing more than 5 percent of your weight within six to 12 months may indicate a problem. If you’re an older adult with many or more-serious underlying health issues, even a smaller amount of weight loss may be significant.

Your doctor will work with you to try to determine what’s causing the weight loss. At first that will involve a thorough history, a physical examination and basic laboratory testing. Imaging scans to look for hidden cancers are not usually helpful unless some other clue points in that direction.

Sometimes, if the basic evaluation is negative, watchful waiting for one to six months is a reasonable next step. You may need a special diet to prevent further weight loss or to regain lost pounds

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