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Causes of Unexplained Weight Loss

By Lisabetta DiVita ; Updated July 18, 2017

Unexplained or unintentional weight loss refers to weight loss that is not due to exercise or dieting. In fact, unintentional weight loss can be due to a serious medical condition that requires prompt treatment or further complications will result. The causes of unintentional weight loss can be managed effectively.


Cancer refers to a potentially life-threatening condition in which the cells in the body grow at a fast rate. Cancer can develop in most any region of the body including the breast, eyes, lungs, pancreas, gallbladder and testes. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that the most common cancers in men are prostate, lung and colon cancer. In women, breast, colon and lung cancers are common. Specific symptoms of cancer depend upon the area it is infiltrating.

The NIH says that some symptoms of cancer include unintentional weight loss, fatigue, night sweats and weight loss. Cancer can also lead to a fever and a poor appetite.

Treatment for cancer involves chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.


AIDS (autoimmunodeficiency syndrome) refers to the most serious stage of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection, the NIH states. In fact, it states that AIDS is the fifth leading cause of death in people who are between the ages of 25 and 44.

Specific symptoms of AIDS include unintentional weight loss, fevers, swollen lymph glands, fatigue, weakness and chills. People with AIDS are also prone to all sorts of infections because their immune systems are severely weakened. Such infections may include pneumocystis carinni pneumonia.

AIDS is typically due to transmission of infected bodily substances. A cure for AIDS is being sought, but its progression can be delayed with certain medications called highly active antiretroviral treatments.


Hyperthyroidism refers to a condition in which the thyroid gland becomes overactive. The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating metabolism.

The Mayo Clinic says that specific hyperthyroidism symptoms include sudden and unintentional weight loss, a rapid heartbeat, sweating, tremors and fatigue. Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism include muscle weakness, fatigue, trouble sleeping, menstrual irregularities, nervousness and anxiety attacks.

Hyperthyroidism may be due to an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the thyroid gland (Grave's disease). It can also be due to a tumor on the thyroid gland (hyperfunctioning thyroid nodule) or it may be due to thyroid gland inflammation (thyroiditis).

Treatment for hyperthyroidism include taking anti-thyroid medications such as propylthiouracil, radioactive iodine and beta-blocker medications. Sometimes, surgery may be used to remove most of the thyroid gland.

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