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Posted on Dec 13, 2013 |

10 reasons unexplained weight loss needs to be taken seriously

10 reasons unexplained weight loss needs to be taken seriously

As Reported On

December 13, 2013 at 9:52 am

You are not dieting; you don’t work out to lose weight; and you are losing weight quickly. Initially, you are not concerned, maybe even you are pleased a little.

Overweight Mani too was pleased when she found herself losing weight and without any effort but little did she know that diabetes was slowly eating into her system. She became aware something was wrong when she started feeling thirsty and hungry all the time and extremely fatigued right from the start of the day. By the time she consulted a doctor and started on medication, her diabetes had progressed too far.

Unexplained weight loss and fatigue are two of the commonest symptoms you will experience with a progressive illness.

Causes of sudden weight loss

There are many possible causes of sudden weight loss. Some of them are discussed here.


Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which you may have high blood glucose levels (blood sugar) either because sufficient insulin is not produced in your body or because your body does not respond properly to insulin, or even both.

Symptoms: Frequent urination, excessive thirst, intense hunger, weight gain (type-2 diabetes), significant and sudden weight loss (especially in type-1 diabetes), fatigue, cuts and bruises not healing properly, numbness or tingling in feet and hands.


Depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer.

Symptoms: Not sleeping or sleeping too much, difficulty concentrating, negative thoughts, feelings of hopelessness and /or helplessness, irritable, suicidal, significant and sudden weight loss.

Overactive thyroid

The thyroid gland produces the hormones thyroid which regulates your body’s metabolism, for example, your heart rate, how quickly you burn calories, and digestion. Thyroid gland also produces a hormone calcitonin that regulates the level of calcium in your blood. When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone (overactive), the condition is called hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms: Palpitations, fast and irregular heartbeat, hot flushes and increased sweating, sudden weight loss, shortness of breath, panic attacks, gritty and bulging eyes, fatigue, mood swings, infertility or decreased libido. However, not everyone has all these symptoms. You may relate to just a few of them. You may relate to many of them, too.


Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It mainly affects the lungs. Tuberculosis can also affect the kidneys, spine or brain. The disease can be treated with a six-month course of antibiotics.

Symptoms: Coughing, sometimes with sputum or blood, chest pains, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, fever and night sweats.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make breathing difficult. The airflow can be blocked by an inflammation of the lining of bronchial tubes that carry air to and from the lungs, which is called chronic bronchitis. When the air sacs in the lungs are gradually destroyed making breathing difficult it is called emphysema.

Symptoms: Symptoms often don’t appear until significant lung damage has occurred. The symptoms are mainly wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, frequent respiratory infections, lips or fingernail beds becoming blue, tiredness and unexplained weight loss in the later stages.

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea and even malnutrition.

Symptoms: Diarrhoea, abdominal pain, cramps, reduced appetite and weight loss, fatigue, blood in the stool, and ulcers.

Addison’s disease

Addison’s disease is a hormonal disorder in which the adrenal glands produce insufficient amount of hormones, cortisol and, in some cases, aldosterone. It can affect all age groups and both genders.

Symptoms: Weight loss, fatigue, low blood pressure, and muscle weakness.


Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells anywhere in a body. Cancer can begin in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs (carcinoma) or in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue (sarcoma), or in blood forming tissue such as the bone marrow (leukemia) or in the immune cells (lymphoma and myeloma). When the cancer begins in the brain and spinal cord it is called central nervous system cancer. Sometimes the cancer cells break away from the original cells and attack other organs or tissues; it is then termed metastatic.

Symptoms: Signs and symptoms vary according to the type of cancer. Some of the common symptoms are sudden weight loss, fatigue, unexplained muscle or joint pain, night sweats, lump or thickening under the skin (for example, breast cancer), changes in bowel or bladder habits (bowel cancer), skin changes or changes in the size and color of moles (skin cancer), hoarseness and difficulty swallowing (lung cancer).


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is just like other viruses, except for one important difference – while the human immune system can destroy other viruses, it can’t flush out this virus. Rather, HIV destroys the immune system so that your body can’t fight infections and diseases anymore and AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection.

Symptoms: HIV infection as such may or may not show symptoms of fever, rash, sore throat, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, ulcer in the mouth and fatigue, but when the HIV infection progresses to AIDS, all these symptoms are prominent. In addition there is sudden weight loss due to wasting, cough and shortness of breath, chronic diarrhoea, and blurred and distorted vision.

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that causes stiffness in the body and face, or slowing of movement. This disease cannot be cured but medication can improve the symptoms.

Symptoms: Impaired posture and balance, loss of automatic movements such as blinking, smiling or swinging arms when walking, stiff muscles, speech and writing changes, and sudden weight loss. However, weight loss is NOT one of the main symptoms of this disease as is evident from Dr. Melissa Nirenberg’s statement – ‘People with PD often lose weight prior to the diagnosis of PD, for a variety of reasons such as loss of smell and taste.  The weight loss usually levels off once people are on appropriate PD medications.  For this reason, ongoing, unexplained weight loss in PD should never be attributed to PD until more serious medical issues such as cancer and depression have been excluded’.

When to see a doctor

If you are losing 4.5 – 5 kg or 5 percent of your normal body weight over 6-12 months or less, and you don’t know the reason, you may be having a problem called sudden weight loss or unintentional weight loss. See a doctor.

It is important to recognize the warning signs. The earlier the disease is discovered, the more successful treatment is likely to be.