Sudden weight loss is a signal that alerts us to possible health problems. In the case of more serious diseases, weight loss is almost always accompanied by other symptoms. However, in all cases, it is advisable to consult the doctor.
Sudden weight loss can be caused by many causes, which almost always have to do with health problems. Either way, this is an important signal that should not be overlooked and warrants prompt medical consultation.
In today’s world, the issue of body weight has many aesthetic and social connotations. Therefore, the first thing that must be verified is that a sudden weight loss has indeed occurred. Sometimes there is simply a change in body image perception.
In this regard, Dr. Jorge Quiroga Vila, director of the department of internal medicine at the University of Navarra Clinic, points out that up to 50% of patients who consult for sudden weight loss have not actually lost significant weight.
Sudden Weight Loss
Whenever there is sudden weight loss, a systemic illness should be suspected. However, before anything else, the parameters of what means significant or medically relevant weight loss must be established.
It is not easy to establish when a weight loss is worrying. However, there is one parameter on which there is an almost absolute medical consensus. He points out that any loss of 5% of body mass, in a period of between 6 and 12 months, should be a reason for medical consultation.
Therefore, the important thing is not how many kilograms are lost, but what percentage of the total body mass they represent. Thus, a person weighing 100 kilos must suspect that something is wrong if they lose 5 kilos in the indicated period. However, in a person of 50 kilos, the alert figure is 2.5 kilos.
There is no need to point out something that may seem obvious at first, but which should always be emphasized: weight loss must be involuntary. It is that the concern is that without something specific to do to lose weight, produced thinning.
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Main Causes of Weight Loss
The causes of sudden weight loss are many, and in 75% of cases, it is possible to identify the reason. In general, weight is lost because fewer calories are ingested than the body’s needs, or because there is a disorder that prevents the body from absorbing nutrients properly. Sometimes both factors are present.
It is very common that these sudden weight losses are the result of a state of depression. It is very important to analyze whether there was previous grief, such as a death or divorce, or some traumatic event before the person lost weight.
There are some diseases in which weight loss appears before other symptoms. This is the case of tumors of the digestive system. Also of some infectious diseases such as HIV, endocarditis, tuberculosis, and fungal or parasitic diseases.
Weight loss is common in cases of hyperthyroidism or pheochromocytoma, diabetes mellitus, and adrenal insufficiency. Several types of cancer are associated with weight loss, but in these cases, there are usually more symptoms.
Age and Weight Loss
Age is a relevant factor when analyzing the causes and consequences of weight loss. There are specific stages or circumstances in which this situation occurs. Let’s see:
- Newborn Babies: It is not uncommon for babies to lose up to 10% of their body weight during their first 15 days of life. This is due to the expulsion of fluids through feces or urine. Thereafter, it is expected to increase half a pound per week for up to 6 months.
- Older people: it is normal for there to be weight loss during the aging process, provided that it occurs gradually. It is also normal that there is a loss of muscle mass and bone mass. If it occurs suddenly it indicates health problems.
It should be noted that many times weight is lost during pregnancy. This occurs in mothers who experience dizziness and vomiting at the beginning of pregnancy and therefore cannot maintain adequate nutrition. It is important to consult the doctor in those cases.
Emotional stress is also a frequent cause of weight loss. High cortisol levels, as well as eating disorders, leads to this. Likewise, compulsive consumption of psychoactive drugs can have a decisive influence on weight.
What Do We Do if we Detect Sudden Weight Loss
If you detect that you have lost a lot of weight in a short time, and you realize that alterations appear in the functioning of your body that previously was not, you should make a medical consultation. A health professional will guide you in the steps to follow to detect the cause and advance in addressing the problem.