Weight loss - unintentional

Definition

Unexplained weight loss is a decrease in body weight, when you did not try to lose the weight on your own.

Many people gain and lose weight. Unintentional weight loss is loss of 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) or 5% of your normal body weight over 6 to 12 months or less without knowing the reason.

Alternative Names

Loss of weight; Losing weight without trying; Unexplained weight loss

Causes

A loss of appetite may be due to:

Chronic digestive system problems that decrease the amount of calories and nutrients your body absorbs, including:

Other causes such as:

Home Care

Your health care provider may suggest changes in your diet and an exercise program depending on the cause of your weight loss.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will do a physical exam and check your weight. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

You may need to see a dietitian for nutrition advice.

References

Manary MJ, Trehan I. Protein-energy malnutrition. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 203.

McQuaid KR. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 123.

Seller RH, Symons AB. Weight gain and weight loss. In: Seller RH, Symons AB, eds. Differential Diagnosis of Common Complaints. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 36.

Ziegler TR. Malnutrition: assessment and support. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 204.


Review Date: 1/16/2021
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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