The most common symptom of many disorders and underlying conditions which are most fatal is decreased appetite. People not eating proper food are prone to many health complications. Loss of appetite can cause unintentional weight loss.
What is Loss of Appetite or Anorexia?A decreased appetite is when your desire to eat is reduced. The medical term for a loss of appetite is anorexia. This is not a condition, it is a symptom of many conditions. Most often, anorexia occurs in a person with a known underlying disorder. Loss of appetite is the most common word used to describe this symptom. Do not confuse with anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder where as anorexia is a symptom of many illnesses.
Symptoms and ComplicationsPeople with poor appetite or appetite loss may eat less than usual, not feel hungry at all, or feel full after eating only a small amount. Ongoing appetite loss may lead to serious complications. These include weight loss, not getting the nutrients from food that the body needs, and loss of muscle mass and strength.
CausesA decreased appetite is almost always seen among elderly adults, and no cause may be found. However, sadness, depression, grief, or anxiety are a common cause of weight loss that is not explained by other factors, especially among the elderly. A number of conditions can lead to a decreased appetite. In most cases, your appetite will return to normal once the original condition is treated.
- The following medical conditions may cause your appetite to decrease:
- chronic liver disease or kidney failure
- heart failure
- hypothyroidism, a condition where your thyroid is underactive
- Cancer may also cause decreased appetite, particularly if it is concentrated in your colon, stomach, ovaries, or pancreas.
- Pregnancy can also cause a loss of appetite during the first trimester.
- Some medications and drugs may reduce your appetite. These include street drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines along with prescribed medications, such as some antibiotics, codeine, morphine, and chemotherapy drugs.
Home Care ManagementIf the decrease is due to a medical condition like cancer or chronic illness, it can be difficult to stimulate your appetite.
- However, eating with family and friends, cooking your favorite foods, or going out to eat at restaurants may help to encourage eating.
- Family members should try to supply favorite foods to help stimulate the person’s appetite.
- Light exercise may help increase appetite, or you might consider focusing on eating just one large meal per day, with light snacks in between.
- Eating frequent small meals can be helpful, and these are usually easier on the stomach than large meals. To ensure you are getting enough nutrients from food, meals should be high in calories and protein. Liquid protein drinks are also helpful to maintain your nutritional balance.
- Keep a record of what you eat and drink for 24 hours for a week. This is called a diet history. This will help your doctor to assess your nutritional intake and the extent of your decreased appetite.
When to Contact a Doctor?Though many people neglect about their decreased appetite, there are few cases where you need to consult a doctor without fail.
- If you are losing a lot of weight without trying.
- If your decreased appetite occurs along with other signs of depression, drug or alcohol abuse, or an eating disorder.
- If your appetite decreased due to the medications, ask your doctor about changing the dosage or drug. Never stop taking medications without first talking to your doctor.
DiagnosisAfter a brief questionnaire, your doctor may suggest few investigations. Tests that may be done to determine the cause of a decreased appetite include:
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Barium enema, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy (if colon cancer is suspected)
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
- HIV test
- Kidney function tests
- Liver function tests
- Pregnancy test
- Thyroid function tests
- Upper GI series
- Urine drug screening