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Rapid Weight Gain Symptoms

Rapid or unintentional weight gain happens when your weight increases without increased consumption of food or decreased activity.

Symptoms associated with rapid weight gain can be different between each person. But most people will immediately notice that clothing items such as shoes and pants no longer fit. ### Associated symptoms of rapid weight gain can also include: ###

Rapid unintentional weight gain is not a normal process and should always be followed up with your physician. These symptoms usually signal an underlying medical issue.

Rapid Weight Gain Causes

Causes of rapid, unintentional weight gain can be separated into three broad categories. Endocrine disorders, systemic conditions that cause fluid retention and medications [1].

Endocrine causes:

The endocrine system is a series of glands that produce hormones important in the regulation of metabolism, growth and development. Both normal functioning and dysfunction in this system can cause rapid weight gain for multiple different reasons.

  • Reproductive: The endocrine system is responsible for the regulation of the reproductive functions in the body such as pregnancy and the menstrual cycle. Rapid weight gain within certain ranges during pregnancy is normal as the body puts on extra weight in form of the baby, placenta, enlarging uterus and increased blood supply. Rapid weight gain is also normal during menopause. The decrease in estrogen levels associated with menopause often results in extra fat or weight gain in the abdominal region and hips [2].
  • Regulatory: The endocrine system is also responsible for regulation of the thyroid gland. This gland is important for making hormones that allow the body to burn calories. As a result, dysfunction in the thyroid gland, especially lack of hormones (hypothyroidism) can result in rapid, unintentional weight gain [1]. The pituitary gland is part of the endocrine system that releases multiple hormones, including one for growth. When too much growth hormone is produced, a condition called acromegaly occurs. Not only do people with acromegaly gain weight rapidly, the bones of the face, hands and feet also increase in size [3].
  • Metabolic: The endocrine system also regulates insulin. In diabetes, there is dysfunction in insulin control that results in high levels of glucose in the blood. Rapid weight gain is often a first sign of diabetes in addition to symptoms such as increased urinary frequency and thirst.

Fluid retention:

Swelling is the result of fluid buildup (edema) that gets trapped in your body's tissues. Buildup can occur when fluid cannot properly flow and/or drain. Fluid retention throughout the body (anasarca) can result in rapid weight gain that is very noticeable in the extremities, especially the legs.

  • Cardiac: Problems with the heart and its ability to pump effectively (also known as congestive heart failure) will cause blood to back up in the lower body [4]. This causes excessive pressure in the blood vessels that causes damage and leakage of fluid into the body's tissue. Furthermore, if the veins of the circulatory system are weakened or damaged, swelling will occur in a similar manner.

  • Kidney: The kidney is a potent regulator of bodily fluid because it is responsible for filtering and clearing the blood. Without the kidney, filtrate such as proteins, electrolytes and toxins can remain in the blood and act as forces that draw fluid out. Fluid retention is a very common and prominent side effect of kidney disease.

  • Liver: Severe liver disease can also result in fluid retention because of a reduction in protein production by the liver. Low levels of blood protein permit more leakage into the tissues.


The endocrine system also regulates a hormone in the body called cortisol. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands and is very important for a number of the body's functions, including conversion of nutrients into energy. Sometimes patients have to take medications called corticosteroids for conditions that cause inflammation. Corticosteroids can result in a condition called Cushing's Syndrome [5]. Too much cortisol results in symptoms such as rapid weight gain, a rounded face, and pink or purple stretch marks on your skin.

9 Possible Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced rapid weight gain. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

  1. 1.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Sleep Deprived

    Sleep is very important to health and adults should get a minimum of 7 hours each night. Sleep deprivation causes daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and headaches.

    Resolves with adequate sleep.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, daytime sleepiness, sleep duration less than 7 hours, difficulty concentrating
    Symptoms that always occur with sleep deprived:
    sleep duration less than 7 hours, daytime sleepiness
    Symptoms that never occur with sleep deprived:
    nausea or vomiting, being severely ill, fever, unintentional weight loss
    Wait and watch
  3. 3.Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Copd)

    COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a chronic condition of the lungs and the airways in the lungs. Damage has occured due to long-term exposure to substances that irritate and damage the lungs, such as cigarette smoke or air pollution. This damage can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance and cough. A common cold or other types of infection can cause symptoms to worden acutely, this is called an exacerbation.

    Often a lifelong condition

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, cough and dyspnea related to smoking, cough, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping
    Symptoms that always occur with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd):
    cough and dyspnea related to smoking
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd):
    rectal bleeding
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Acute Kidney Injury

    Acute kidney injury is a sudden episode of damage or failure to the kidney. It is common in older adults as well as patients in hospital.

    Treatment depends on the underlying cause of kidney failure.

    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting, urinary changes, shortness of breath, fatigue
    Symptoms that always occur with acute kidney injury:
    urinary changes
    Symptoms that never occur with acute kidney injury:
    vaginal bleeding
    Hospital emergency room

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  5. 5.Gestational Diabetes

    Gestational diabetes is a blood sugar issue that may occur during pregnancy. Though noticeable symptoms generally do not appear, testing in the early stages of pregnancy is advised so that this condition can be managed well for the health of the pregnancy.

    0-9 months

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, excesive thirst, dry mouth, leaking urine, urinating frequently in normal amounts
    In-person visit
  6. 6.Acute or Worsening Heart Failure

    Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. Heart failure does not mean that the heart has stopped or is about to stop working, but rather that the heart is not able to pump blood the way it should. Usually this happens when the heart has been damaged by another medical condition.

    Outlook is highly variable and depends on the underlying medical condition that caused the heart failure.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, shortness of breath on exertion
    Emergency medical service
  7. 7.Congestive Heart Failure

    Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a form of heart failure that causes fluid to back up into the lungs and other tissue. Symptoms include trouble breathing and edema (swelling of ankles, hands)

    This is a lifelong condition but symptoms can be managed.

    Top Symptoms:
    cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, cough at night, shortness of breath on exertion
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Nephrotic Syndrome

    Nephrotic syndrome is caused by different disorders that damage the kidneys. This damage leads to the release of too much protein in the urine, causing the body to swell.

    Varies by cause of Nephrotic Syndrome

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, weight gain, bilateral leg swelling
    Symptoms that never occur with nephrotic syndrome:
    cut on the foot, recent cut or wound, swollen ankle, swelling of one leg
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Cirrhosis

    Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver. Scar tissue forms because of injury or long-term disease. In the United States, alcoholism and Hepatitis C are the most common causes. Scar tissue cannot do what healthy liver tissue does - make protein, help fight infections, clean the blood, help digest food and store energy.

    Cirrhosis is a life-long liver condition, but is not expected to lower life expectancy if treated right away and if existing damage is not extensive.

    Primary care doctor

Rapid Weight Gain Treatments, Relief and Prevention

Treatment for rapid weight gain depends on the cause and finding the underlying issue.

Endocrine causes of rapid weight gain that result in hormonal imbalance may be treated by medications that help to normalize the levels. These medications are often used long-term and are specific for the hormones affected.

Cardiac, renal (kidney) or hepatic (liver) causes of fluid retention require evaluation and often multiple tests before treatment can be tailored to the patient's needs.

If medication is the cause of the problem, your doctor will recommend alternative rapid weight gain treatments.

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience symptoms such as:

Such symptoms may signal life-threatening complications of conditions such as diabetes or heart failure that require prompt medical attention.

FAQs About Rapid Weight Gain

Here are some frequently asked questions about rapid weight gain.

Why am I gaining weight but eating the same?

Weight gain can be caused by changes in the functioning of many of the glands in the body as well as changes in caloric consumption that is rarely considered by individuals. Hypothyroidism — as well as excessive amounts of cortisol or overtreated inadequate levels of cortisol — can contribute to unintended weight gain. Additionally, drinks like beer or soft drinks are often not considered food but are very high in calories.

Can depression cause rapid weight gain?

Depression can cause rapid weight gain or rapid weight loss. Depression can slow down metabolism, eliminate motivation to work out, motivation to eat healthy foods, or cause people to self-medicate an absence of positive emotion with food. It is common for severe fluctuations in weight to occur in the setting of the different stages of depression.

What is considered rapid weight gain?

Rapid weight gain is considered problematic if it greater than five percent of an individual's body mass in six months or less with no discernible reason. More often than not, it can be due to changes in diet, water consumption, and retention of water.

Do certain medications lead to rapid weight gain?

Yes, drugs that treat diabetes, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, depression, or epilepsy can all cause rapid weight gain [6]. Insulin drugs may require a concurrent change in diet to avoid weight gain, and bipolar, depression, and schizophrenia drugs will require monitoring of weight gain and even lipid panels depending on the drug to monitor their effects.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Rapid Weight Gain

  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Are you having difficulty concentrating or thinking through daily activities?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Do you currently smoke?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our rapid weight gain symptom checker to find out more.

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Rapid Weight Gain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced rapid weight gain have also experienced:

    • 8% Fatigue
    • 5% Stomach Bloating
    • 3% Severe Fatigue
  • People who have experienced rapid weight gain were most often matched with:

    • 50% Rheumatoid Arthritis
    • 50% Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Copd)
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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  1. Healthy Weight: Nine Medical Reasons for Putting on Weight. NHS. Updated June 1, 2017. NHS Link.
  2. Davis SR, Castelo-Branco C, Chedraui P, et al. Understanding Weight Gain at Menopause. Climacteric. 2012;15(5):419-429. Taylor & Francis Online Link.
  3. Acromegaly. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Published April 2012. NIDDK Link.
  4. Managing Heart Failure Symptoms. American Heart Association. Updated May 31, 2017. AHA Link.
  5. Cushing's Syndrome. Stanford Health Care. Stanford Health Care Link.
  6. Shrivastava A, Johnston ME. Weight-Gain in Psychiatric Treatment: Risks, Implications, and Strategies for Prevention and Management. Mens Sana Monographs. 2010;8(1):53-68. NCBI Link.