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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Excessive Hunger

Excessive Hunger

Alternate Names : Excessive Appetite, Polyphagia

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Excessive hunger describes an abnormally strong desire or need to eat. This can be normal or related to an underlying medical condition.

What is going on in the body?

Increased hunger is not considered excessive when related to a recent lack of eating. People who have always had a large appetite are not considered to have excessive hunger either. There are many potential causes of an unexpectedly large appetite.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There are many possible causes for excessive hunger. These include:

  • increased exercise, which can increase the body's food requirements
  • growth spurt. Just before or during a period of rapid growth, a person's appetite increases to ensure that the body has enough food to support this growth. This is common in infants and adolescents.
  • hormone imbalances. A high level of thyroid hormone, called hyperthyroidism or a high level of adrenal hormones, called hyperadrenalism, can cause excess hunger. Some women may have this condition due to hormone changes that occur during pregnancy or at certain times during the menstrual cycle.
  • uncontrolled diabetes. This is a condition that causes increased blood sugar levels which trigger increased appetite.
  • depression. This condition often causes a decrease in appetite. However, it can cause excessive hunger in some cases.
  • bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder that most commonly affects young women. This disorder causes short, intense periods of hunger that usually result in eating binges.
  • certain drugs or medications. The use of antihistamines, steroids, marijuana, or large amounts of alcohol can cause excess hunger. Withdrawal from cocaine or amphetamine can also cause this condition.
  • damage to an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. This is a rare condition.
  • Other causes are also possible. Sometimes, no cause can be found.


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    Excessive Hunger: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Melissa Sanders, PharmD
    Date Reviewed: 06/07/01

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