Unintentional Recent Weight Loss

What Causes Weight Loss?

Weight loss can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'minor' to 'generally fatal'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose weight loss, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "weight loss" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • Anorexia/Starvation Tendency
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Blastocystosis
  • Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Leukemia

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
candidiasis
colitis in family members
occasional unexplained fevers
history of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
resolved atypical recent headaches
painful axillary nodes
multiple swollen axillary nodes
minor joint pain/swelling/stiffness
elevated ESR
being at risk of HIV/AIDS
blood clotting problems
minor problem with cysts
... and more than 100 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of weight loss:
Cause Probability Status
Leukemia 91% Confirm
Ulcerative Colitis 20% Unlikely
Cancer 13% Unlikely
Anorexia/Starvation Tendency 0% Ruled out
HIV/AIDS 0% Ruled out
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma 0% Ruled out
Ovarian Cancer 0% Ruled out
Blastocystosis 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate having weight problems, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Has your weight decreased significantly for unknown reasons in the past year?
Possible responses:
→ Don't know / not applicable
→ No / minimal change
→ 5% to 10% / moderate weight loss
→ 11% to 20% / major weight loss
→ Over 20% / very great weight loss
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate no unexplained weight loss, moderate unexplained weight loss, major unexplained weight loss or very great unexplained weight loss, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Carcinoid Cancer

Weight loss can occur in carcinoid syndrome, as in most cancers, and the presence of diarrhea may contribute to further losses.

Coronary Disease / Heart Attack

Weight loss is a common finding among individuals with chronic heart failure.  It is evident that malabsorption of fats is related to heart failure.  In one study, subjects with heart disease had 10 times more fat in their stool than heart-healthy individuals.  This means those with heart disease weren't absorbing their fats [Am J Cardiology 5: p.295, 1960].  Yet heart patients are typically placed on low-fat diets! These individuals were leaner, but not healthier.

Diabetes Type II

Weight loss can indicate uncontrolled diabetes, while weight gain suggests an increased risk of getting it.

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