Dear Doctor, I’m Losing Weight, Should I Be Happy or Worried?
Excessive weight loss
Having a healthy weight (of BMI between 18.5- 22.9) and an active lifestyle is something that we are all encouraged to do.
Unintentional weight loss is a decrease in body weight that is not voluntary.
Hence, weight loss without exercising or dieting may be indicative of an underlying medical condition, especially if it is more than 5 percent of your body weight in 6 months. Many patients whom I have seen have said to me that they don’t realise their own excessive loss of weight and is only made aware of it by friends or family members.
Should I be concerned if I have excessive weight loss?
Excessive weight loss can come about when one has loss of appetite. This could be due to conditions like painful mouth ulcers, new dentures or orthodontic appliances. Of course, when one undergoes severe stressful life events or is depressed, there will also be loss of appetite and weight.
Losing weight excessively could also be a major symptom in several medical conditions that can be diagnosed from screening tests.
So YES, you should consult a doctor if you have excessive weight loss or unintentional weight loss.
What medical conditions can cause weight loss?
2 common causes are endocrine diseases like hyperthyroidism and diabetes.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition where there is an overactive thyroid gland. This is a fairly common condition and can lead to rapid weight loss, irregular, rapid heart rate, excessive sweating and nervousness.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which a person has high blood sugar level. The classic symptoms of untreated or undiagnosed diabetes include loss of weight, frequent urination, increased thirst or increased hunger.
Other causes of persistent or excessive weight loss include malignancy (leukemia, carcinoma), malabsorption, (coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease) perisistent vomiting (hiatus hernia), acute or chronic infection (tuberculosis, HIV) or systemic diseases (heart failure, chronic renal failure).
In our fast paced society, many people attribute their weight loss to stress and sometimes do not realise that it could be related to a medical condition. In my experience, I have personally seen several cases of hyperthyroidism and diabetes diagnosed as a result of them coming for a check up as a result of unexplained weight loss.
If you have persistent or unintentional weight loss, do consult your physician for further check up as early detection will lead to early treatment.