Rapid weight loss and lack of appetite are typically side effects of a medication or symptoms of an underlying disorder that may be very serious. If you are experiencing either rapid weight loss, loss of appetite, or both, see your medical care practitioner for a full evaluation to ensure your continued health.
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Several types of cancer can cause rapid weight loss and loss of appetite. You must see your doctor to rule out these conditions. Cancer of the ovaries, liver, pancreas, mouth, gums, throat and soft palate, colon, esophagus, kidney, and lungs all may cause these symptoms. In addition, leukemia, which is a cancer of the white blood cells, may cause rapid weight loss and lack of appetite. Multiple myeloma, a cancer of the immune system, also may manifest with these symptoms.
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can cause rapid weight loss and appetite loss. Hyperthyroidism, where your thyroid gland is overactive, may manifest with rapid weight loss. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are often treated with surgical removal of the thryoid or irradiation of the thyroid and using replacement medication to take over the function of the thyroid. Sometimes, the mix of medication isn't appropriate, leading to a loss of appetite, which can lead to rapid weight loss.
Stress from work, family or other aspects of your life can cause a physical response. If you're so busy worrying, you often lose your appetite, which can lead to rapid weight loss. In addition, intestinal disorders, such as ulcerative colitis, which can be exacerbated by stress, can lead to rapid weight loss and loss of appetite.
If your gastrointestinal system has an infection, it may not process food correctly, causing rapid weight loss. Infections aren't limited to viral or bacterial issues, however. You may have a parasitic infestation in your intestines that prevents you from taking in calories properly, causing rapid weight loss and inhibiting your appetite. Helminths, which are roundworm, tapeworm and pinworm are the most common parasitic intestinal infection in the United States, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. These parasites can cause intestinal symptoms that are quite painful, so see your doctor immediately should you experience rapid weight loss and lack of appetite, especially if you have recently traveled internationally.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; Public Health Assessments & Health Consultations; March 2010
- National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service; Hyperthyroidism; April 2008
- National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service; Hypothyroidism; May 2008
- National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service; Ulcerative Colitis; February 2006
- MedlinePlus; Weight Loss - Unintentional; February 2009
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Intestinal parasites