Loss of Weight

For children under 12, see chart 42

Most people experience small fluctuations in their weight. However, weight loss may be a cause for concern if it occurs without a deliberate change in diet and/or increased exercise. Consult your doctor if you have been losing weight without an obvious cause.

  • Has your weight loss been progressive?

    • Yes

      How has your appetite been lately?

      • Poor

        Have you been experiencing any of the following symptoms?

        • Increased thirst
          • Possible cause Diabetes mellitus is a possible cause.

            Medical help See your doctor within 24 hours.

        • Passing more urine than usual
          • Possible cause Diabetes mellitus is a possible cause.

            Medical help See your doctor within 24 hours.

        • Blurred vision
          • Possible cause Diabetes mellitus is a possible cause.

            Medical help See your doctor within 24 hours.

        • None of the above

          Do you have any of the following symptoms?

          • Feeling constantly on edge
            • Possible causes Hyperthyroidism is a possibility. However, anxiety disorders can cause some of these symptoms.

              Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

          • Increased sweating
            • Possible causes Hyperthyroidism is a possibility. However, anxiety disorders can cause some of these symptoms.

              Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

          • Bulging eyes
            • Possible causes Hyperthyroidism is a possibility. However, anxiety disorders can cause some of these symptoms.

              Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

          • None of the above

            Have you recently increased the amount of exercise you do?

            • No increase
              • Possible cause You are probably eating less than you need to meet your energy requirements.

                Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor to make sure that an underlying problem is not responsible for your weight loss.

            • Increased exercise
              • Possible cause Your increase in energy output is the most probable cause of your weight loss.

                Self-help Increase the amount of food you eat to make up for your increased energy needs (see Controlling your weight). Make an appointment to see your doctor if you continue to lose weight or are below the healthy weight for your height (see Are you a healthy weight?)

      • Normal or increased

        Have you been experiencing any of the following symptoms?

        • Recurrent fever
          • Possible causes A chronic infection, such as tuberculosis or an AIDS-related illness (see HIV infection and AIDS), could be the cause of your symptoms. An underlying cancer is also a possible cause.

            Medical help See your doctor within 24 hours.

        • Profuse sweating at night
          • Possible causes A chronic infection, such as tuberculosis or an AIDS-related illness (see HIV infection and AIDS), could be the cause of your symptoms. An underlying cancer is also a possible cause.

            Medical help See your doctor within 24 hours.

        • Persistent cough
          • Possible causes A chronic infection, such as tuberculosis or an AIDS-related illness (see HIV infection and AIDS), could be the cause of your symptoms. An underlying cancer is also a possible cause.

            Medical help See your doctor within 24 hours.

        • Bloodstained sputum
          • Possible causes A chronic infection, such as tuberculosis or an AIDS-related illness (see HIV infection and AIDS), could be the cause of your symptoms. An underlying cancer is also a possible cause.

            Medical help See your doctor within 24 hours.

        • None of the above

          Have you noticed any of the following symptoms?

          • Recurrent diarrhoea
          • Recurrent constipation
          • Recurrent abdominal pain
          • Blood in faeces
          • None of the above

            Do you have any of the following symptoms?

            • Difficulty sleeping
              • Possible causes Depression could be the cause. However, anxiety disorders sometimes produce similar symptoms.

                Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

            • Low self-esteem
              • Possible causes Depression could be the cause. However, anxiety disorders sometimes produce similar symptoms.

                Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

            • Lack of interest in sex
              • Possible causes Depression could be the cause. However, anxiety disorders sometimes produce similar symptoms.

                Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

            • Inability to concentrate or to make decisions
              • Possible causes Depression could be the cause. However, anxiety disorders sometimes produce similar symptoms.

                Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

            • Lack of energy
              • Possible causes Depression could be the cause. However, anxiety disorders sometimes produce similar symptoms.

                Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

            • None of the above
              • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your weight loss from this chart, call your doctor within 24 hours.

    • No
      • Possible cause A small weight loss is unlikely to be a serious cause for concern unless you are below your healthy weight (see Are you a healthy weight?).

        Self-help Increase the amount of food you eat (see Controlling your weight). Make an appointment to see your doctor if you continue to lose weight or have any other symptoms.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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