What is Unintentional Weight Loss?
Weight loss normally occurs due to the burning of calories from energy expenditure or a decreased calorie intake. Unintentional weight loss is loss of weight that comes without exercise or a change in diet or routine. It can be a symptom of an illness or serious medical condition and needs to be evaluated by a medical professional.
Causes of Unintentional Weight Loss
Unintentional weight loss may be due to factors that range from mild to serious. Some common causes include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Addison’s disease
- Eating disorders
- Kidney disease
- Celiac disease
- Peptic ulcer
Symptoms of Unintentional Weight Loss
Common symptoms associated with unintentional weight loss include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness and loss of muscle mass
- Increased incidence of infections
- Difficulty breathing
- Stomach pain
Diagnosis of Unintentional Weight Loss
Unintentional loss of more than 5% of your weight within 6 to 12 months is a cause for concern and should be evaluated. Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and perform a physical examination. A psychiatric evaluation may also be recommended. The following diagnostic tests may be performed:
- Complete blood count: This test can determine the presence of infection and anaemia.
- Thyroid panel: These are blood tests to determine thyroid function. They measure the level of thyroid hormone production as well as the level of hormones influencing the thyroid (thyroid-stimulating hormones).
- Liver function tests: These are tests to help diagnose liver disease and monitor liver function.
- Blood sugar test: This test will help to analyze your blood glucose level to check for diabetes.
- Urinalysis: Your urine is analyzed to detect the presence of any pus, blood cells, or other substances indicating infection, kidney disease, or other disorders.
- Imaging tests: To help diagnose conditions such as cancer.
- Endoscopy: Insertion of an illuminated tube connected to a tiny camera into the body to examine the gastrointestinal tract
Other tests may be performed depending on the condition being diagnosed.
Treatment for Unintentional Weight Loss
Treatment for unintentional weight loss is mainly based on the root cause. Some common therapeutic measures include:
- Medication: Depending on the underlying condition, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat hormonal imbalances, infections, diabetes, and lack of appetite.
- You may receive treatment for digestive disorders.
- Diet: Your doctor may advise you to include nutritional supplements and flavour enhancers in your diet to help you gain weight.
- Palliative care: This is reserved for weight loss due to cancer.
- Behavioural modification and counselling: This is intended for individuals suffering from depression, stress, or eating disorders.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Crohn's Disease
- Bowel Incontinence
- Unintentional Weight Loss
- Upper Gastrointestinal Disease
- Swallowing Disorders
- Oesophageal Motility Disorder
- Gastric Disease
- Gastric Ulcers
- Peptic Ulcer
- Gallbladder Disease
- Liver Disease
- Fatty Liver Disease
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Liver Masses
- Hepatobiliary Disease
- Pancreatobiliary Diseases
- Evaluation of Gastrointestinal Malignancy or Pre-Malignant Conditions
- Liver Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Biliary Tract Cancer
- Polyp to Colon Cancer Progression
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
- Eosinophilia and Eosinophil-Associated Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGIDs)
- Inflamed or Irritable Bowel
- Coeliac Disease
- Diverticular Disease
- Upper Gastrointestinal Bleeding
- Lower Gastrointestinal Bleeding
- Rectal Bleeding
- Prevention of Gastrointestinal Diseases