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What is Considered “Extreme” Weight Loss?

What is Considered “Extreme” Weight Loss?

As a symptom, extreme weight loss is classified as the loss of a significant amount of weight that cannot be explained. Extreme weight loss may occur quickly or gradually over time. In either case, patients experience a substantial weight loss without trying to do so through diet or exercise. In severe cases, patients may experience excessive weight loss even when trying to gain or maintain their weight. Unexplained weight loss is a symptom that should not be ignored because of it often a sign of a serious medical condition.

What Causes Extreme Weight Loss?

Extreme weight loss may occur as the result of diseases and disorders affecting almost any part of the body. Some of the most common causes include AIDS, cancer, ongoing infections, chronic liver disease, thyroid disease, respiratory disease, heart disease, and digestive disorders. Problems of the teeth or mouth that make eating painful can also cause extreme weight loss. Mental health problems including eating disorders and depression are also responsible for excessive weight loss in some patients.

What Medications cause Extreme Weight Loss?

Certain drugs and medications are other common causes of abnormal weight loss. Many drugs utilized in chemotherapy and in treating thyroid problems are known to cause patients to lose weight quickly. Patients may also experience weight loss as the result of abusing various drugs including laxatives and street drugs. Also, smoking cigarettes has been linked to sudden weight loss in some patients.

Diagnosing Extreme Weight Loss

Rapid extreme weight loss is a severe symptom that should not be ignored. Losing an excessive amount of weight in a short period can cause extensive damage to many of the organs of the body. As a result, it is essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Numerous tests may be needed to determine the cause of extreme weight loss. Doctors typically begin by performing a thorough physical examination and obtaining the patient's medical history. He or she may also ask the patient numerous questions regarding the use of drugs or medications and any additional symptoms that are present.


Patients who experience extreme weight loss may require various forms of treatment. In extreme situations, patients may need to be hospitalized to receive treatment for malnourishment or dehydration. Underlying conditions have usually been to be addressed to stop further weight loss. The prognosis varies depending upon the underlying cause. Patients generally have the best chance of a positive outcome when the condition is detected and treated early. In limited cases, extreme weight loss can be fatal.