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"Is rapid weight loss abnormal?"

ZocdocAnswersIs rapid weight loss abnormal?

Question

As my father has gotten older (from his 50s to his 60s), he has also become a lot thinner. I'm worried that this is some kind of bad metabolic change, but he says it's just what happens to guys of age in our family. Should we see a doctor about this?

Answer

Rapid weight loss can be a sign of underlying disease. It should be evaluated by your primary care physician who can refer you to other specialists as needed. Weight loss can have a number of different causes. It can be voluntary as when you change your diet or increase the amount that you exercise. However, it can also be a sign of serious medical disease. Weight loss can be caused by problems with the body's endocrine or hormonal system. That is, problems with the thyroid gland or diabetes can lead to weight loss. It can also be caused by chronic infections, such as HIV, hepatitis, or tuberculosis. Finally, the most serious cause of weight loss is cancer, and it can happen with many different types of cancer. Often, patients with cancer lose weight because they lose their appetites and are eating less. Although there are many different causes of weight loss, losing weight is most concerning when it occurs rapidly or unintentionally. Anyone who is losing weight, especially if they are not trying to, should be evaluated by a doctor. Your primary care physician can evaluate you to help determine the cause.

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