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Unexplained Weight Loss – 10 Possible Causes & When To See The Doctor

Unexplained weight loss refers to a significant decrease in body weight that occurs even when the individual is not actively trying to lose weight. Unexplained weight loss does not occur as a result of dietary, physical, or behavioral changes. Weight loss of at least 10 pounds, or 5% of body weight, over a six- to twelve-month period is classified as “unexplained.”

Weight loss that is unexplained may be a sign of a more serious underlying ailment or sickness. As such, it is critical to seek medical care if you (or a family member) experience unexplained weight loss.

Weight Loss

Causes of Unexplained Weight Loss

1. Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a factor that contributes to unintended weight loss. If you have type 1 diabetes, your immune system targets the cells that produce insulin in your pancreas. Without insulin, your body is unable to utilise glucose as an energy source. This results in elevated blood glucose levels.

Through urine, your kidneys eliminate unneeded glucose. As sugar leaves your body, calories go as well. Type 1 diabetes treatment includes insulin injections, monitoring of blood sugar levels, diet modifications, and physical activity.

2. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis, an infectious disease that normally affects the lungs, can also lead to unexplained weight loss. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the root cause of the infection. Other symptoms of TB include weight loss and decreased appetite, however the causes for these effects aren’t completely understood.

TB is transmitted via the air. It is possible to get tuberculosis even if you remain asymptomatic. The bacteria will not be able to reproduce and remain active as long as your immune system is capable of fighting it. This is known as latent tuberculosis.

Some people are at risk for active TB. This includes people with weak immune systems. TB is typically treated with a course of antibiotics for six to nine months.

3. Cancer

Cancer is a broad term that refers to disorders that cause abnormal cells to divide rapidly and spread. The American Cancer Society notes that one of the first indicators may be an unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more. This is prevalent with pancreas, lung, stomach, and esophageal malignancies.

Cancer causes an increase in inflammation. This results in muscle loss and impairs the function of appetite-regulating hormones. Additionally, a developing tumor may raise your resting energy expenditure (REE), or the amount of energy burned by your body during rest.

The type of cancer dictates the treatment. Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy are all examples of typical treatment options.

4. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland produces an abnormal amount of thyroid hormone. These hormones regulate a variety of bodily functions, including metabolism.

If your thyroid is overactive, even if you have a healthy appetite, you will swiftly burn calories. As a result, unintended weight loss may occur.

5. Muscle Wasting

Muscle wasting may result in unexplained weight loss. Muscle weakness is the most common symptom. One of your limbs may appear to be significantly shorter than the other.

Your body is composed of both fat and nonfat mass, which includes muscle, bone, and water. You will lose weight if you lose muscle.

This can occur if you haven’t used your muscles in a long. It is especially prevalent in those who are inactive, have desk jobs, or are bedridden. Muscle loss may generally be reversed by exercise and adequate nutrition.

6. Depression

Weight loss may be a side effect of depression, which is described as a state of sadness, disorientation, or emptiness that lasts at least two weeks. These emotions cause disruptions in routine activities such as going to work or school.

Depression affects the same brain regions that regulate appetite. This can result in decreased appetite and, ultimately, weight reduction.

7. Congestive Heart Failure

Weight loss is a complication of congestive heart failure (CHF). CHF develops when the heart can’t fill up with enough blood, the heart can’t pump blood with enough force, or both. It may affect one or both sides of the heart.

If you have CHF, your digestive system can’t receive enough blood. This can lead to nausea and early fullness. Additionally, it might be hard to breathe while eating.

The inflammation in damaged heart tissue also speeds up metabolism, causing unintentional weight loss.


HIV is a virus that targets immune cells called T cells. This makes infection resistance more challenging. HIV infection, if left untreated, can progress to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Advanced stages of these illnesses frequently result in weight loss.

Uncomfortable eating might be exacerbated by symptoms such as sore throat, mouth sores, and weariness. Additionally, HIV increases the likelihood of secondary infections, which result in an increase in restingenergyexpenditure.

9. Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Weight loss that is unexpected may be an indication of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of chronic inflammatory illnesses of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most frequent kinds.

Chronic inflammation caused by IBD causes your body to enter a catabolic state, which means it is constantly depleting energy.

IBD also alters the hunger hormone ghrelin and the satiety hormone leptin. As a result, appetite is suppressed and weight loss occurs.

10. Endocarditis

Endocarditis is an inflammatory condition that affects the inner lining of the heart, or endocardium. It occurs when germs, most commonly bacteria, enter the bloodstream and congregate in the heart.

The majority of persons who have endocarditis have a fever. This may occur in conjunction with a lack of appetite. Additionally, elevated body temperature speeds up metabolism and burns fat, resulting in weight loss.

When To See The Doctor

If you’re losing weight without intending it and are concerned, visit your doctor – as a general guideline, losing more than 5% of your body weight within six to twelve months may signal a problem. If you are an older adult with many or more serious underlying health problems, even a small amount of weight loss may be significant.


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