Weight loss is the reduction in overall body weight caused by either voluntary (physical activity) or involuntary (overfeeding, medication) means. The majority of cases of rapid weight loss originate because of the temporary loss of total body mass, but occasionally, even in cases where the bulk of the weight loss stems from a change in eating habits, the loss of weight can be rapid.
In any case, most cases of rapid weight loss require prompt intervention with assistance from a physician and, if the weight loss rate exceeds 10% per week, you should seek medical attention as the weight loss may be indicative of serious health problems. This does not necessarily mean that the individual is unhealthy; it is just that the weight loss is rapid and requires attention to ensure safety.
Indirect causes of weight loss include the use of certain medicines like antidepressants and birth control pills. Also, during pregnancy, women who are nursing may experience unintentional weight loss. While some individuals may lose a considerable amount of weight after starting a diet, most weight loss occurs in the first eight weeks of a new diet, so it is easy to understand why most dieters tend to regain all lost weight.
As with accidental weight loss caused by illnesses or medications, it is easy to find explanations for the weight loss. However, to reduce the number of cases of intentional weight loss that are caused by medical conditions it is important to consult your physician for a complete medical assessment of your health and any underlying medical causes for your weight loss.
Rapid weight loss can be dangerous if rapid loss of weight is combined with symptoms such as confusion, fever, lethargy, and an increase in skin sensitivity or baldness. For this reason, people experiencing these symptoms should avoid undergoing any weight loss program.
While there is generally no danger of death directly related to sudden, uncontrollable weight loss, rapid weight loss can lead to dehydration, organ failure, and electrolyte imbalance. Rapid weight loss also increases the risk of developing diabetes. Rapid weight loss can also lead to osteoporosis. For this reason, it is very important to have your physician evaluate your current weight and your past health history before beginning any new diet and exercise program.
Severe weight loss may be caused by an underlying medical condition, so it is always advisable to consult with a doctor. Severe weight loss may also occur as a side effect of certain prescription medications. Some medications can cause sudden, unintentional weight loss including heart medications, blood thinners, chemotherapy drugs, and hormone replacement therapies.
People experiencing these side effects should discontinue use and contact their doctor immediately. Very low levels of glucose or folic acid can cause severe weight loss including hypoglycemia, ketoacidosis, and coma.
Intentional weight loss includes behaviors that are intended to reduce food intake. These activities usually produce the opposite effect; in most cases, the person consumes more food than he or she intended to consume and carries this excess weight with them. Some examples of intentional weight loss include dieting, fasting, excessive workout routines, using laxatives, and taking herbal supplements such as ephedra.