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Weight loss

Significant weight loss is defined as the loss of 4.5kg or more than 5 percent of baseline body weight over a period of six to 12 months.

 

Definition

 
Significant weight loss is defined as the loss of 4.5kg or more than 5 percent of baseline body weight over a period of six to 12 months. Weight loss may be voluntary or involuntary, and may be associated with changes in appetite.

 

Causes

 
All form of weight loss are basically due to energy requirements or expenditure exceeding energy intake, in other words, a state of negative energy balance. Observed weight loss may be due to the loss of body fluids, fat or muscle. The healthy, desirable form is the loss of body fat, with preservation of other tissues.

Intentional weight loss may be for increased fitness, improved appearance, or for medical reasons, such as avoiding the possible complications of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis or stroke. Various techniques are used for this, the best being a combination of:

  • Kilojoule restriction,
  • Healthy eating patterns,
  • Increased physical activity, and
  • Weight-loss surgery in extreme cases.

Excess weight loss is not encouraged, as it is associated with medical problems such as decreased immunity to infections, osteoporosis, hormonal imbalances, decreased muscle strength and even sudden death.

Involuntary weight loss is associated with many disorders:

  • Hyperthyroidism;
  • Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus;
  • Malabsorption states;
  • Underlying cancer;
  • Chronic illness of any kind, like infections or Aids;
  • Oral/dental problems like mouth sores, braces, tooth or gum infections;
  • Substance abuse like alcohol, nicotine and opiates;
  • Central stimulants like ingredients in medication; and
  • Psychiatric conditions like depression.

 

Diagnosis

 
The cause for the weight loss must be determined. A good history and clinical examination may make the diagnosis of an underlying cause, which is then confirmed by tests such as blood tests, or imaging (X-rays scans).

 

Treatment

 
Those with voluntary weight loss do not seek treatment as a rule.
Treatment of involuntary weight loss will depend on the underlying cause identified.

(Dr AG Hall)

The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.