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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Loss of Appetite
      Category : Health Centers > Digestive System

Loss of Appetite

Alternate Names : Anorexia, Decreased Appetite

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

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
  • pregnancy
  • 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.


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    Loss of Appetite: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/27/01

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