If you’re overweight, the first sign of unexplained weight loss might be somewhat welcome. Chalk it up to any number of rational explanations, but when the weight continues to fall off without dieting or making an effort, you realize it’s time to be concerned.
Unexplained weight loss is never a good sign. While someone might be losing weight without trying – the cause could be depression, stress or even a tapeworm – the cause can be fairly easily determined with some simple medical detective work.
However, what if you are still unsure why you are losing weight? What if you continue to eat healthily, and even are adding calories to your diet? Unexplained weight loss – cachexia – is a symptom of chronic conditions, and unexplained weight and muscle loss are symptoms. The causes of cachexia vary and most often are an indication that something’s wrong, such as a chronic illness. So then, what are some causes of unexplained weight loss, or cachexia?
Causes of Unexplained Weight Loss
Perhaps cachexia is better defined as a condition of a condition. Losing weight without diet or exercise could be related to diabetes, cancer, HIV or any number of chronic diseases. Even as a person continues to eat, weight continues to fall off.
The primary difference between cachexia and other conditions that cause weight loss is that people with cachexia lose weight no matter what. Eating makes no difference. Additionally, muscle is always lost with cachexia.
Who’s at Risk?
Cachexia rears its ugly head following the onslaught of disease, in a which comes first, the chicken or the egg type of phenomena. Cachexia is a devastating symptom of multiple diseases, some of which include:
· Heart Failure
· Cystic Fibrosis
· Renal failure
· Celiac disease
· Crohn’s disease
· Rheumatoid arthritis
· Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – COPD
Cachexia can accompany any of the chronic diseases listed above and many more. However, if you have cancer, for instance, it isn’t a guarantee that you’ll also suffer from cachexia and the weight or muscle loss that accompanies it.
If you are experiencing unexplained weight loss, speak to your doctor to determine the cause. Your doctor will use the following factors to determine if your weight loss is due to cachexia or explained otherwise. You will be diagnosed with cachexia when the following are present:
· An intentional or unexplained lose more than 5% of your body weight.
· Less than 10% of your body is body fat.
· You’re less than 65 years of age with a Body Mass Index (BMI) that is less than 20, or, you’re older than 65 years of age and your BMI is less than 22.
· Albumin levels are off. Albumin is produced in the liver and regulates fluid level. An albumin level that is less than 35 grams per liter could be a sign of cachexia. Swelling in different parts of the body can occur.
· Increased cytokines in the bloodstream is an indication that the body is experiencing inflammation. High levels of cytokines will cause a reaction that will break down muscle.
There are treatments available to people suffering from cachexia. Your doctor will map out the best course of action for you, which could include growth hormones or medications that stimulate appetite. However, cachexia is rarely prevented or reversed by taking only dietary measures. Seek medical attention at the first sign of unexplained weight loss.
For partners in lifelong health and wellness, call Advanced Medical in Wellington and Royal Palm Beach at (561) 434-1935 or use our convenient appointment request form.