What are the Major Causes of Unexplained Weight Loss?

Unexplained weight loss occurs when a person loses weight without trying, or loses weight for no reason in particular. It may indicate an underlying medical condition, especially if it’s substantial or persistent.

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It isn’t really exact as to what point at which mysterious weight loss becomes a medical condition. However, if you lose more than 5 percent of your weight in six months to a year, especially if you’re an older adult, then seek medical attention, experts advised. For example, a 5 percent weight loss in someone who is 160 pounds (72 kilograms) is 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms). In someone who is 200 pounds (90 kilograms), it’s 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms).

Also, it is important to note that your weight is affected by your nutrient absorption, intake of calorie, age, activity level, social/economic factors, and overall health.

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Not all cases of weight loss is serious. It can happen after a life-changing or stressful event. However, unplanned weight loss may be a sign of one of these medical conditions.

Causes of Unexplained weight

The causes of unexplained weight loss can range from medical to nonmedical cases. Often, a combination of things results in a general decline in your health and a related weight loss. Sometimes a specific cause isn’t found.

Possible causes of unexplained weight loss include:

  1. Overactive thyroid

Overactive thyroid, also called hyperthyroidism, occurs when your thyroid gland produces excess thyroid hormone. These hormones control many functions in the body. If your thyroid is overactive, it would cause you to burn calories quickly even if you have a good appetite. The result can be unintentional weight loss.

Other symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • heat intolerance
  • fast, irregular heart rate
  • hand tremors
  • fatigue
  • light menstrual periods
  • sleep troubles

Possible causes of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Excess consumption of iodine
  • Graves’s disease
  • thyroiditis
  • taking too much thyroid medicine

Treatment of hyperthyroidism depends on your age and severity of your case. Generally, it’s treated with anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine, beta-blockers, or surgery.

  1. Depression

Depression may lead to weight loss. These emotions interfere with daily activities, and leads to loss of appetite, which eventually causes weight loss.

However, depression may have the opposite effect in some people, such that it may lead to increase in appetite. The symptoms vary from person to person. Other symptoms of depression include:

  • low energy
  • constant gloom
  • lack of concentration
  • irritability
  • loss of interest in hobbies that used to be fun
  • low energy
  • sleeping too little or too much
  • suicidal thoughts

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  1. Addison’s disease

Addison’s disease occurs when the immune system attacks the adrenal glands, causing the adrenal glands not to produce enough hormones like cortisol and aldosterone. Since cortisol controls many functions, including metabolism and appetite, this means that low levels of cortisol may lead to poor appetite and eventually weight loss.

Other symptoms of Addison’s disease include:

  • cravings for salt
  • low blood pressure
  • chronic fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • hyperpigmentation

Treatment of Addison’s disease usually includes medications that would regulate your adrenal gland.


HIV attacks immune cells called T cells, making it difficult for the cells to combat infections. HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), if left untreated. Advanced forms of these conditions often cause severe weight loss.

Symptoms like sore throat, mouth sores, and fatigue can make eating uncomfortable. HIV also increase the risk of secondary infections.

Other symptoms of HIV include:

  • rashes
  • fever
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • chills
  • night sweats
  • muscle aches

Symptoms of HIV depend on the person and stage of infection. Antiretroviral therapy is used to treat HIV and stop the spread of the virus.

  1. Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is another condition that causes a person to loss weight. It occurs when your immune system attacks cells in your pancreas that produces insulin. Your body finds it difficult to use glucose for energy without insulin. This eventually leads to high blood glucose. As your kidneys gets rid of glucose through urine, sugar and calories leaves your body, leading to weight loss.

Type 1 diabetes also causes:

  • excessive thirst
  • fatigue
  • frequent urination
  • excessive hunger
  • dehydration
  • blurry vision

Treatment of type 1 diabetes includes insulin, blood sugar monitoring, diet modifications, and exercise.

When to see a doctor

Consult your doctor if you are losing weight without any obvious explanation. As a rule of thumb, losing more than 5 percent of your weight within six to 12 months may point to an underlying condition. If you’re an older adult with many or more-serious underlying health issues, even a smaller amount of weight loss may be significant.

Your doctor will properly diagnose your condition to determine what’s causing the weight loss. A thorough history, a physical examination and basic laboratory testing may be conducted. Imaging scans to check for hidden cancers are not usually helpful unless some other clue points in that direction.

Your doctor may advise you to wait for 1-6 months if the evaluation is negative. You may need a special diet to prevent further weight loss and to regain lost pounds.

Disclaimer: The content provided on healthdiary365.com is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.


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