A healthy appetite is an indication that the body is in good state of health. There are multitude reasons which are responsible for lack of appetite or loss of appetite. In medical parlance loss of appetite is also called anorexia.
Loss of appetite of varying degree is a symptom of many disorders having diverse etiology. In some mild disorders it is temporary and reversible, while in many other diseases loss of appetite can last for long time. If you experience loss of appetite more than few days, you should always consult your doctor.
Causes And Diagnosis For Loss Of Appetite
As mentioned earlier there are several causes for loss of appetite. In fact it is one of the symptoms of many diseases. In most cases anorexia is accompanied with weight loss, tiredness, lack of concentration etc. Aside from diseases, a person may eat less even if he has unhealthy eating habits. Appetite loss occurring temporarily is of little significance. However, if anorexia is persistent, all efforts should be made to find the underlying cause.
Below are given conditions in which loss of appetite is one of the prominent complaints:
- Viral Hepatitis: It is a liver disease caused due to virus infection. Loss of appetite along with nausea, vomiting, and dark urine suggests viral hepatitis, even before icterus appears. If the blood tests reveal raised serum bilirubin, SGOT and SGPT, it is diagnostic of viral hepatitis.
- Carcinoma of stomach: Cancer of stomach is usually observed in elderly people. There is severe and persistent anorexia. Patient also has weight loss. To diagnose cancer of stomach, aside from physical examination and history, certain laboratory investigations are carried out. X-ray barium meal and endoscopic examination along with brush biopsy establishes the diagnosis.
- Anorexia nervosa: It is a psychiatric disorder occurring mostly in girls before the age of twenty five. These patients have remarkable decrease of weight, emaciation, absence of menses, self induced vomiting. These patients are usually over active and have fear of gaining weight. There is no evidence of medical disease in these patients. Patient may suffer from cardiac problems, low blood pressure, abnormally low body temperature, low level of potassium in severe cases.
- Addison’s disease: Loss of appetite with severe weakness, increased pigmentation of skin, low blood pressure is suggestive of Addison’s disease. Blood tests may confirm the diagnosis. Patient has low level of sodium in blood and raised serum potassium along with decreased serum cortisol levels confirms the diagnosis.
- Drugs: Certain drugs are known to cause loss of appetite. If a person is complaining loss of appetite, he should be inquired if he taking any drugs. Certain drugs such as digitalis, quinine, metronidazole, narcotics, amphetamine, anti malignancy drugs are known to cause loss of appetite.
- Depression and stress: Most people who experience depression and stress suffer from loss of appetite to certain extent. Stress, anxiety and depression can occur due to various reasons. It can be work related stress, anxiety and stress in relationship etc. Usually from the history and examination, the physician is able to diagnose stress and depression as a cause of loss of appetite.
- Chronic alcoholism: Majority of chronic alcoholics suffer from low appetite. Usually there is an associated liver and stomach problem such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or gastritis. Patient may also complain of nausea, vomiting, upper abdominal pain, weakness, etc. A proper history is sufficient to diagnose chronic alcoholism. Sonography, blood tests, and endoscopy assist further confirmation if there is associated damage to liver or stomach.