Losing weight and having an increased appetite might seem like incongruent symptoms, but certain conditions can cause both to happen to a person at the same time. Feeling the urge to eat more, yet losing weight could be the sign of a serious medical abnormality or even an eating disorder. Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your appetite or major changes in your weight over a short period of time.
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When your thyroid produces too much of a chemical called thyroxine, increased appetite and weight loss are two of the common symptoms due to an accelerated metabolism, according to MayoClinic.com. An increased and unusually high heart rate, nervousness and irritability are other signs of this condition, as well as sweating, tremors, sensitivity to heat and swelling of the thyroid. Left untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause heart problems, weakening of bones and eye problems. Causes of hyperthyroidism include a condition called Graves' disease, in which antibodies in your system stimulate overproduction of thyroxine by your thyroid. Thyroiditis, in which the thyroid becomes inflamed for any number of reasons, can spark an overproduction of the chemical as well.
Bulimia is a serious eating disorder marked by binge eating followed by purging, usually through vomiting or sometimes through the repeated use of diuretics. People with bulimia have the overwhelming urge to eat large amounts of food in one sitting, followed by feelings of shame, guilt and problems with self-image. Bulimia is most common among teen girls and women in their 20s and early 30s, according to MedlinePlus. Increased appetite with weight loss are two of the classic signs of bulimia. Some other signs of bulimia include excessive exercising, going to the bathroom after meals on a regular basis, and buying large amounts of food that are completely gone a short time later.
It can be difficult to know when losing weight is a serious issue. According to MedlinePlus, if you lose more than 5 percent of your body weight over a 6- to 12-month period without modifying your diet or increasing your rate or level of exercise, you should consult a doctor.
Hyperthyroidism is usually treated through medication prescribed by your doctor. Some of these medications include radioactive iodine, which shrinks the thyroid, and medications such as propylthiouracil and methimazole, which block the thyroid from producing hormones such as thyroxine. In extreme cases, some people who experience hyperthyroidism have the thyroid completely removed through surgery. Treatment for bulimia includes hospitalization to treat the immediate effects of the binge-and-purge cycle, including dehydration and malnutrition. In addition, many bulimic patients undergo psychological evaluation and treatment or therapy to handle the underlying issues causing the eating disorder.
If you notice someone who you think might have an eating disorder such as bulimia, contact a health care professional immediately. Over time, bulimia can lead to serious medical complications, such as pancreatitis, inflammation of the throat and tearing of the esophagus wall due to the excess acid from frequent vomiting.