If a woman is suddenly losing weight for no apparent reason, this is cause for alarm. If you can absolutely rule out the obvious reasons for the weight loss such as strenuous dieting, anorexia nervosa (starvation) or taking amphetamines (diet pills, speed or cocaine), then you need to consider what else might be going on to cause weight loss. Are you depressed? Grief-stricken? Do you wear ill-fitting dentures that make it impossible for you to eat? Do you have a problem with alcohol and/or drugs? If none of those apply then there must be an underlying medical reason.
The Mayo Clinic (see reference 1) explains that an inexplicable drop in weight can be due to cancer or other non-cancerous disorders; hyperthyroidism (over-active thyroid); liver disease; depression; or a malabsorption problem, which means that your body isn’t absorbing nutrients properly. If an individual has lost up to 10 percent of his weight in the past six months, the Mayo Clinic recommends going to see a doctor.
Other conditions that can cause a person to lose weight quickly include inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, according to WrongDiagnosis.com (see reference 2). These diseases result in the immune system waging battle in the intestines.
Diabetes can cause sudden weight loss. When a diabetic’s blood sugar is high, urination becomes frequent, which can cause dehydration and result in weight loss, according to MedicineNet.com (see reference 3). In addition, muscle breakdown can occur when a person’s sugar is too high, causing weight loss. Unexplained and rapid weight loss in a diabetic should not be ignored. It isn’t a good sign.
Other illnesses that can cause sudden weight loss include diarrhea, particularly if it is chronic; laxatives, if over-used; thyroid medications; chemotherapy drugs; AIDS; a chronic infection; malnutrition; and problems with your teeth, such as having sores or wearing dentures or braces, according to the National Institutes of Health (see additional resources). Parasitic infections can also cause weight loss.
Cancers of the lung, pancreas or colon and leukemia interfere with the intestines' ability to absorb food and nutrients, which can cause sudden weight loss, according to Discovery Health (see additional resources).
Medications that can cause weight loss include some anti-seizure medications as well as some psychotropic drugs, according to FamilyEducation.com (see additional resources).
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are two major eating disorders that result in weight loss and can be fatal if taken to the extreme. Anorexia strikes females 10 times as often as it afflicts men, according to iVillage (see additional resources). Some anorexics simply stop eating, whereas others will use diuretics (water pills) and laxatives to help them lose weight. Extreme exercise may also be involved, as well as purposeful vomiting. Individuals suffering from this condition may also binge eat. Bulimia, on the other hand, occurs when an individual eats excessive amount of foods after which she feels guilty and may force herself to vomit or imposes very firm eating restrictions on herself. The bulimic may also use laxatives and, at times, resort to not eating at all.