Seeing the needle on the scale dropping isn't always a good thing, particularly if it is accompanied by other health concerns. If you are experiencing constant hunger or eating excessive amounts of food yet are losing weight, you may have a serious medical condition. Recognizing these symptoms and consulting with your doctor as soon as possible are vital, as some of these conditions can be life-threatening.
Type 1 Diabetes
Once known as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in minors and young adults. The hormone insulin is involved in regulating your blood sugar. In type 1 diabetes, your body does not produce enough of this hormone to perform its vital function. As a result, the glucose, or sugar, builds up in your blood instead of being used as an energy source for the body. This dysfunction causes you to feel constantly hungry and have excessive thirst, yet still have unintentional weight loss. Other symptoms include fatigue, blurry vision, frequent urination and tingling in the feet. You will have to take insulin for the rest of your life and keep to a regular eating schedule to manage the disease.
When your thyroid hormone levels are not in the normal range, it can have substantial effects on the entire body. The thyroid gland is directly involved in regulating your metabolism. If the gland produces too much hormone, a condition called hyperthyroidism, your metabolic rate increases, causing weight loss and excessive hunger. Anxiety, hair or skin changes, insomnia and an irregular heartbeat are also common signs and symptoms. If you are female, you may notice your menstrual periods lighten or even stop, according to the American Thyroid Association. Beta blockers and drugs to block hormone production are typically prescribed, but surgery to remove most of the thyroid may be necessary as well.
Although rare, a tumor of the adrenal gland called a pheochromocytoma is another possible culprit for your symptoms. They are typically not cancerous but, if left untreated, can have devastating consequences. In addition to unintentional weight loss and hunger, having hypertension is a major consequence of these tumors. It causes overproduction of epinephrine, better known as adrenaline, which in turn raises blood pressure. Surgery is required to remove the tumor, which should eliminate symptoms; however, the tumors and symptoms can return in rare instances.
Weight loss and continual hunger may be signs of an eating disorder. If you find yourself having intense cravings, binging on foods or feeling as if you have no control over your eating, you may have bulimia nervosa. In addition to unhealthy eating behavior, you might vomit or use laxatives to rid your body of the food. Eventually, this cycle of binging and purging can cause substantial weight loss and lead to anorexia. These are serious conditions that affect all your body systems, so getting medical and psychological help is vital. Treatment is most successful if you get assistance before drastic weight loss. In fact, 60 to 80 percent of people with bulimia go into remission within three months, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
- PubMed Health: Type 1 Diabetes
- Harvard Health Publications: Thyroid Disease: Understanding Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
- American Thyroid Association: Hyperthyroidism
- Care Hospitals: Pheochromocytoma
- PubMed Health: Pheochromocytoma
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Eating Disorders - Complications of Bulimia