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11 Subtle Signs Your Rapid Weight Loss Is Something Serious

If your unexplained weight loss is accompanied by these other symptoms, consult a doctor.

Life would be a lot easier if losing weight were as easy as gaining it. Unfortunately, shedding a couple pounds almost always requires a change of diet accompanied by physical activity and a lot of patience and discipline. Consequently, most people tend to view quick, out-of-the-blue weight loss as a positive—but sadly, that might not always be the case. Unexplained weight loss could be a sign of an underlying health concern, especially if you lose more than 5 percent of your weight in 6 to 12 months, according to WebMD. To make sure you don't overlook anything, here are the subtle signs that indicate your rapid weight loss is something more serious.

You are constantly thirsty, tired, and using the bathroom more than usual.

Man with a man bun and glasses drinking water at home

Diana Gariglio-Clelland, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Balance ONE, says that one of the primary potential causes of unexpected weight loss is diabetes.

"When someone develops diabetes, their body isn't able to take up adequate amounts of sugar for energy due to lack of insulin," she says. "When the cells aren't able to take up this sugar, they starve, which can result in weight loss."

Gariglio-Clelland advises people to get in to see their healthcare provider for some diagnostic blood tests—such as a blood glucose test—if they experience unintended weight loss, just to be on the safer side of things.

You are craving salty foods.

Woman eating salty french fries

If you find yourself with a constant craving for salty foods while losing weight out of the blue, you could have Addison's disease.

Addison's disease is a rare condition where the body can't produce enough of two critical hormones, cortisol and aldosterone, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Symptoms also include irritability, dizziness, muscle weakness, and nausea, among other things. It can be treated with oral corticosteroids to replace the hormones not being produced by the adrenal glands.

You are experiencing rapid heartbeat, hair loss, and increased appetite.

Man checking his heartbeat or heart rate

If you find yourself unable to sleep yet constantly tired, losing your hair, hungrier than usual, sweating, or experiencing a rapid heartbeat, your weight loss could be a sign of hyperthyroidism, according to nutritionist Lisa Richards, author of The Candida Diet.

"Hyperthyroidism is a hormonal condition where the thyroid is overactive and produces more of the hormone thyroxine than necessary," she says. "This can lead to rapid weight loss, but there are some subtle signs to look for that may indicate this is the reason for your weight loss."

You have a burning feeling in your stomach.

Woman holding her stomach in pain sitting on edge of bed

If your weight loss is the result of not eating very much because you feel like your stomach is burning, that's definitely a sign that something is not right.

A burning feeling in your stomach, bloating, heartburn, and nausea are all signs of ulcers, a condition where painful sores cover the inner lining of the stomach, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Luckily, in some cases, lifestyle changes can be enough to ease the symptoms.

Your joints are tender, warm, or swollen.

Sporty woman tending to shoulder injury tender joint

Another reason behind unexplained weight loss could be rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition, according to Richards.

"Signs that this may be the cause of your unintentional weight loss include tender and swollen joints, fever, appetite loss, fatigue, and joint stiffness," she says. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no known cure for the condition, but there are medications to alleviate some of the symptoms.

You are experiencing blood in your urine, coughing, or other cancer symptoms.

Woman coughing

Jesse Houghton, a gastroenterologist based in Ohio, says that unexplained weight loss is the most common universal symptom of cancer. While there is no guarantee that weight loss definitely means cancer, there are some signs to be on the lookout for that might mean a cancer screening is necessary.

"For example, if someone has unexplained weight loss and black stool, we would pursue an EGD to look for an upper GI tract cancer or bleeding ulcer," he says. "If they have weight loss and a chronic cough, we would would want to obtain a chest X-ray or chest CT scan to look for lung cancer."

You are constantly nauseated.

Man suffering from stomach ache nauseous

Lynell Ross, certified health and wellness coach, says that an often overlooked problem when it comes to rapid weight loss is the issue of mental health, anxiety, or stress.

"Stress or anxiety can cause rapid weight loss by making you queasy, because it activates hormones that affect your digestive system that can also cause it to shut down," she says. "Nausea can be associated with mental health disorders such as panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. Our nervous or upset stomach, or decrease in appetite can also happen when we feel hopeless, trapped, or can't see our way out of a problem."

Ross suggests seeking counseling from a mental health professional if you find yourself rapidly losing weight without any physical cause.

You have skin rashes.

Female patient showing a doctor her arm rash

A severe skin rash accompanying weight loss, as well as other symptoms like anemia, a tingling sensation in the legs, and even seizures can be sign that you have celiac disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks gluten.

As celiac disease can leave people vulnerable to other health conditions, it's important to get it treated promptly. Luckily, a gluten-free diet usually helps ease symptoms within six months.

You have stomach pains, nausea, and vomiting.

Woman about to throw up in a toilet

Another cause of unexplained weight loss is parasitic worms, if the weight loss is accompanied by stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue, according to Healthline. Some types of parasitic worms do disappear on their own, while others may require additional treatment.

You have chest pains and a cough.

Young man holding his chest in pain

It's common to lose some weight when suffering from many illnesses. However, if your weight loss is accompanied by chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing, it might be a sign you have tuberculosis, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Tuberculosis is a potentially serious infectious disease that mainly affects your lungs, and it's essential to get it treated promptly. The treatment of tuberculosis depends on your age, overall health, and where the infection is located in your body. But it does take a lot longer to treat than other infections: You need to be on tuberculosis medication for at least six to nine months.

You are experiencing pain in your bones.

Woman holding her elbow examining pain

If you're having bone pains along with weight loss, it could be a sign that you have hypercalcemia, a condition in which the calcium level in your blood is above normal, according to the Mayo Clinic.

There are several ways to treat hypercalcemia. In a milder case of the condition, your doctor might choose to wait and monitor your bones and kidneys over time, while in more serious cases, your doctor may prescribe certain medications or even recommend surgery.

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