Loss of Appetite
Alternate Names : Anorexia, Decreased Appetite
Most people have experienced a temporary loss of appetite at some time. This is rarely a worrisome symptom unless it lasts for more than a day or two.
What is going on in the body?
A loss of appetite can be quite concerning when it fails to go away. It can be a sign of a serious underlying condition, such as depression or cancer. It also commonly occurs during a sudden illness, such as an infection. When a loss of appetite continues for a long time, a person is at risk for malnutrition.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
There are many causes of a loss of appetite that continues for more than a few days, including:
infections, such as pneumonia, hepatitis, HIV, influenza, or a kidney infection called pyelonephritis
serious liver, kidney or heart disease. For instance, chronic renal failure, cirrhosis, or congestive heart failure can cause a loss of appetite.
cancer of any kind, such as colon cancer, stomach cancer, or a blood cancer called leukemia
blockage in the bowels, known as intestinal obstruction
inflammation in the bowels or gut, such as occurs with pancreatitis, an inflammation in the pancreas, irritable bowel syndrome, or appendicitis
endocrine problems, such as diabetes mellitus, or a condition that causes low thyroid hormone levels called hypothyroidism
autoimmune disorders, conditions in which a person's immune system attacks his or her own body. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma.
psychiatric conditions, such as depression, schizophrenia, or an eating disorder called anorexia nervosa
medications or drugs, such as alcohol, narcotics, antibiotics, chemotherapy medications used to treat cancer, and a diabetes medication called metformin
dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, a condition that causes decreased memory and a decline in other brain functions
Many other causes are also possible. Sometimes, no cause can be found.