I'm Losing Weight and Have No Appetite

Doctor with medical card
Seek help if you have sustained unintentional weight loss. (Image: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images)

Losing weight without trying may be a welcome development for some, and if temporary, usually isn't not a cause for concern. However, if you continue to lose weight over an extended period of time due to a decrease in your appetite, you can lose too much weight. Additionally, unintended weight loss over time is usually the result of an underlying disorder.

When to Worry

Everyday factors can contribute to a decreased appetite and unintentional weight loss. You may be busier than usual, or under more stress at work or at home. Perhaps you've been skipping meals more often than you thought you were. A common illness such as a cold, sore throat or the flu can cause a temporary loss of both appetite and pounds. Whatever the cause, the time to be concerned about unexpected weight loss is when you unintentionally drop 10 lbs. or more, or if you lose 5 percent or more of your overall body weight.

Causes You Can Correct

In some cases, you can easily pinpoint the reasons for your loss of appetite and weight loss. For example, if you're feeling more nervous, stressed or tense than usual, this is likely contributing to your lack of appetite. If you have recently experienced the loss of a loved one, or you are having difficulties in one or more of your relationships, you may also notice a decreased appetite and eventual weight loss. As difficult as these types of issues may seem, their effects are generally transient, and you can expect your symptoms to resolve over time. However, if the symptoms go on long enough that you begin to lose too much weight, it is best to discuss the symptoms with your doctor.

Causes Your Doctor Should Evaluate

If you're not experiencing general life issues that could be contributing to your appetite and weight loss, and you're unintentionally losing too much weight, make an appointment to discuss the issue with your doctor. Many underlying disorders can cause appetite suppression or unintentional weight loss. Such conditions include gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn's disease, celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome. A dysfunction of your endocrine system resulting in diseases such as diabetes and disorders of your thyroid and adrenal glands can also cause appetite changes and weight loss. Your symptoms can also be the first sign of a disorder as severe as cancer. Don't let your unexplained symptoms go for an extended period of time without evaluation by your doctor.

Your Doctor's Visit

Your doctor will likely ask you many questions regarding your loss of appetite and weight. She will ask when you first noticed these symptoms. She will also ask if you are taking any over-the-counter medications, or any other medications about which she may be unaware. She will likely ask you about your diet, how often you are eating, and how much weight you have lost. Your doctor might also ask you questions that seem strange, such as whether you've noticed any hair loss or changes in your vision. She may even ask you questions regarding your mental health, since depression can also cause appetite loss. Try to answer these questions honestly and accurately. Your doctor will evaluate all of your answers closely to narrow down the causes and eventually pinpoint the cause of your decreased appetite and weight loss.

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