Rapid Weight Loss Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand rapid weight loss symptoms, including 10 causes & common questions.

  1. 10 Possible Rapid Weight Loss Causes
  2. Real-Life Stories
  3. Rapid Weight Loss FAQ
  4. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  5. Statistics
  6. Related Articles

10 Possible Rapid Weight Loss Causes

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

Stomach ulcer

A peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of the stomach or the first part of your small intestine (the duodenum), which causes pain following meals or on an empty stomach.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, moderate abdominal pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps)

Symptoms that never occur with stomach ulcer: pain in the lower left abdomen

Urgency: Primary care doctor


Depression is a mental disorder in which a person feels constantly sad, hopeless, discouraged, and loses interest in activities and life on more days than not. These symptoms interfere with daily life, work, and friendships.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, depressed mood, headache, anxiety, irritability

Symptoms that always occur with depression: depressed mood

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive inflammation of the lungs that makes breathing difficult. It is caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases and/or dust particles, most often cigarette smoke.

Symptoms may take years to develop. They include a chronic cough with mucus (sputum), wheezing, chest tightness, fatigue, constant colds, swollen ankles, and cyanosis (blue tinge to the lips and/or fingernails.) Depression is often a factor due to reduced quality of life.

Treatment is important because there is a greater risk of heart disease and lung cancer in COPD patients. Though the condition cannot be cured, it can be managed to reduce risks and allow good quality of life.

COPD is commonly misdiagnosed and so careful testing is done. Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; lung function tests; blood tests; and chest x-ray or CT scan.

Treatment involves quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to other lung irritants; use of inhalers to ease symptoms; steroids; lung therapies; and getting influenza and pneumonia vaccines as recommended.

Rarity: Common

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

Urgency: Primary care doctor


Anorexia nervosa is a type of eating disorder. Anorexia usually affects adolescents or adults. While weight loss is the primary feature of anorexia, this condition can affect many organ systems throughout the body.

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Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behavior, such as self-induced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, or abuse of laxatives or diuretics.

Despite typically having a normal weight, people with bulimia are often persistently concerned with th...

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Tuberculosis, or TB, is a lung infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In some cases, it can affect other organs such as the brain or kidneys.

The disease spreads when an infected person exhales, speaks, or coughs and someone else inhales the bacteria. Tuberculosis is not transmitted any other way. Some patients carry TB without ever showing symptoms, though the disease may become active if something happens to weaken the immune system.

Most susceptible are those with weakened immune systems; infected with HIV; living or working in homeless shelters, correctional facilities, or nursing homes; and children under age 5.

Symptoms include severe cough that may bring up sputum and/or blood; chest pain; weakness; weight loss; fever; chills, and night sweats.

Diagnosis is made through skin tests, blood tests, sputum tests, and chest x-ray.

Treatment involves a course of specialized antibiotics under close medical supervision, along with rest and supportive care.

There is a vaccine for tuberculosis, but it is not entirely effective and not routinely given in the United States.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, rib pain, dry cough

Urgency: In-person visit

Hodgkin's lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma, formerly known as Hodgkin's lymphoma or Hodgkin's disease, is cancer of the lymphatic system. It is believed to be caused by a mutation in one of the body's immune system cells, called a B cell.

Most susceptible are those under age 30 or over age 55, with a family history of the disease, as well as anyone with a history of any illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.

Symptoms include swelling of lymph nodes in groin, armpits, and neck; lowered tolerance to drinking alcohol, including pain in lymph nodes afterwards; unintended weight loss; fever; chills; night sweats; and itching.

There are good treatments available for Hodgkin lymphoma, so it is important to see a medical provider about these symptoms as soon as possible.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination; blood tests; imaging such as x-ray, CT scan, or PET scan; and sometimes lymph node biopsy and/or bone marrow sample.

Treatment involves a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Bone marrow transplant, also called stem cell transplant, can be done in some cases.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain (stomach ache), shortness of breath, fever

Symptoms that never occur with hodgkin's lymphoma: pulsing armpit mass, armpit lump that comes and goes, shrinking armpit lump, pink or red armpit bump, black or brown armpit bump, yellow or white armpit bump, bleeding armpit bump

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is also called acute lymphocytic leukemia or ALL. It is a cancer that starts in the bone marrow where new white blood cells, or lymphocytes, are formed. Normal white blood cells are blocked and cancerous cells formed instead, causing the symptoms of the disease.

This blood cancer, or leukemia, can spread quickly through the bloodstream to other organs in the body.

ALL is caused by a genetic abnormality, which can be hereditary or can be acquired through overexposure to radiation. The disease is most common in young children and most are cured after treatment.

Symptoms include fatigue; shortness of breath; fever; aching extremities; unexplained bruising; and tiny red spots under the skin (petechiae.)

ALL can start and spread quickly, so it is important for the patient to see a medical provider at the earliest symptoms.

Diagnosis is made through blood tests and bone marrow tests.

Treatment involves some combination of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Stem cell transplantation may be an option following the chemotherapy.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, fever, severe fatigue

Symptoms that never occur with acute lymphoblastic leukemia: inflamed throat

Urgency: In-person visit

Non-hodgkin lymphoma

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that results from the malignant proliferation of white blood cells. White blood cells are a part of our bodies’ immune system and are important for fighting infection. Lymphomas are sub-classified as Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphomas. These subtypes...

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops as a reaction of trauma. One can get PTSD after living through or seeing a traumatic event, such as war, a hurricane, sexual assault, physical abuse, or a bad accident. PTSD causes stress and fear after the danger is over.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: psychological or physiological distress

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Real-life Stories

Once your story is reviewed and approved by our editors, it will live on Buoy as a helpful resource for anyone who may be dealing with something similar. If you want to learn more, try Buoy Assistant.

FAQs About Rapid Weight Loss

Here are some frequently asked questions about rapid weight loss.

Why am I losing weight but eating more?

A common cause of losing weight while eating more is malabsorption. In malabsorption, the gut is less able to absorb nutrients from food. As a response, the body causes an increased drive to eat. Malabsorption can be caused by many different disorders. Increased hunger in the setting of weight loss can commonly be caused by hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland produces thryroid hormone and alters metabolism to the demands of the body, If the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism), it can cause an increased body temperature, increased gut motility, difficulty sleeping, and weight loss despite increased appetite.

Can stress cause rapid weight loss?

Yes, extreme stress can activate the stress response system and cause rapid weight loss. This is less common than the many infectious illnesses that cause rapid weight loss, but it is possible. Rapid weight loss can be caused by prolonged stress, poor sleep, or even depression, but to confirm a psychological cause, it may be necessary to first rule out infection or cancer.

How much weight loss in concerning?

Weight loss is deemed "clinically important" when it is unintentional and greater than five percent of an individual's body weight over 612 months. This means for an individual that weighs 150 pounds, losing 7 1/2 pounds unintentionally over the course of a year would require investigation to discover the cause. Unintentional weight loss to a concerning degree is extremely common, such that most people within their advanced adulthood years will experience it.

Can rapid weight loss cause postmenopausal bleeding?

No, rapid weight loss cannot cause postmenopausal bleeding. There are, however, many causes of postmenopausal bleeding including excess growth of the lining of the uterus, fibroids, atypical excess growth, and different types of cancers. Rapid weight loss associated with postmenopausal bleeding is a worrisome series of symptoms, and both may be caused by a systemic illness like cancer or profuse uncontrolled bleeding. If you are experiencing unexplained rapid weight loss and postmenopausal bleeding you should seek medical care.

What is causing my rapid weight loss and flu like symptoms?

Rapid weight loss and flu-like symptoms, commonly referred to as systemic illness symptoms, can be caused by a variety of things. Viral infections like the flu, mono, or HIV/AIDS can cause rapid weight loss and flu-like symptoms. Of these, the flu and mono are much more common than HIV/AIDS. Additionally, systemic illnesses like cancers or autoimmune illness can cause activation of the immune system and weight loss, and should be examined and ruled out. If you are experiencing rapid weight loss and flu-like symptoms, you should seek medical care.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Rapid Weight Loss

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Do you currently smoke?
  • Have you experienced any nausea?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Rapid Weight Loss Symptom Checker

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Rapid Weight Loss Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced rapid weight loss have also experienced:

  • 6% Fatigue
  • 5% Loss Of Appetite
  • 4% Nausea

People who have experienced rapid weight loss were most often matched with:

  • 36% Stomach Ulcer
  • 36% Depression
  • 27% Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Copd)

People who have experienced rapid weight loss had symptoms persist for:

  • 69% Over a month
  • 12% Two weeks to a month
  • 7% One to two weeks

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

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