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Diabetes & Unexplained Weight Loss - Sugar.Fit

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Diabetes & Unexplained Weight Loss

The prevalence of diabetes is quite high in today’s day and age and the incidence of occurrence is only increasing day by day. Not only among adults but also in younger children, diabetes is becoming more and more prominent. Several different factors are causing the diagnosis of diabetes among people all over the world. India is also among the leading countries wherein people are affected by the different types of diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are the two most common ones that are prevalent in people. There are a few other variations of this condition like Type 1.5 diabetes or gestational diabetes and even prediabetes that can occur among people depending on certain causes and factors. 

Diabetes is a complicated condition to live with. Originally, the only people who were thought of being diagnosed with this were the older population. However, since the overall prevalence has come down age-wise, the awareness of the nuanced aspects of this condition is increasing. This means that the complications and problems associated with diabetes are coming to light. It is not as simple as maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. It is not even as simple as making a few changes and exercising regularly. Almost every aspect of life is affected and needs to be altered upon the diagnosis of diabetes. That is how minutely it can play a role in someone’s life.

Diabetes naturally comes with the obvious symptoms that most people are aware of like the highs and lows in the blood sugar, loss of immunity, eyesight-related issues, etc. However, many other signs are associated with diabetes. These may not be understood predominantly as a consequence of diabetes but they are – hair loss, tiredness, fatigue, weight loss or weight gain, etc. 

Does Diabetes Cause Weight Loss?

The simple answer to the question – does diabetes cause weight loss – would be yes. Often unexplained but as a result of the diabetes diagnosis, weight loss happens when there is a significant change in the diet, the lifestyle, hormonal levels, diagnosis of an illness, etc. When there is no apparent or glaring reason for weight loss, it is often deemed as unexplained. Diabetes mellitus is one such condition that can cause unexplained weight loss. The link between obesity and diabetes is often the one that is the most spoken about, however, there is a high prevalence, and almost 10% of the people with diabetes, in the United States alone, are at a weight lower than normal. 

Weight loss can be an alarming symptom of diabetes. Essentially, since the complete immune system is under distress after the diagnosis of this condition, the body requires the right amount and kind of nutrition to be able to ward off other attacks and deal with any other issue appropriately. In case of unexplained weight loss, the body’s nutrients may not entirely be replenished and the person may feel even weaker and low on energy. Losing a little bit of weight is natural and understandable. Some weight loss can also be explained as a result of the reduction in carbs and sweetened food items. However, can diabetes cause weight loss that is a bit drastic and unexpected? Yes, it can. And that is something one needs to keep a watch on.

Probable Causes of Unexplained Weight Loss

The body and the weight are one of the first things that get affected when dealing with any illness and medical condition. Therefore, in case of any weight loss that is unexplained and uncalled for, it would be important to investigate it a little to ensure that it is not happening as a result of an undiagnosed condition or issue. Several different things can play a role in affecting a person’s weight. One of the first age ranges when there is a sudden, often drastic, weight loss would be right before puberty when the growing child loses all of their baby fat and becomes petite. This can still be explained as a growth spurt. 

The other medical reasons owing to which one could experience some weight loss would be the following:

  1. Diagnosis of cancer
  2. Chronic diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
  3. Dementia or other conditions on the spectrum
  4. Mental health concerns like – depression, anxiety, etc
  5. Eating disorders
  6. HIV
  7. Hyperthyroidism
  8. Infections, especially in the stomach
  9. Side effects of medications like – chemotherapy, thyroid meds, and steroids.
  10. Drug and alcohol abuse/ smoking. 
  11. Malnutrition, etc

A type 2 diabetes weight loss symptom could also be the reason for weight loss. These are some of the medical conditions that could lead to weight loss that may not have any particular reason. Other factors that may not be medical like – socio-economic background, availability of resources, money/ financial limitations, etc can also lead to unexplained weight loss to a certain degree. 

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Link Between Diabetes & Unexplained Weight Loss

While trying to understand the link between these two factors, one will also find the answer to the question – can diabetes cause weight loss. Since it is a chronic condition that leads to several complications within the different systems of the body, it can affect fat and weight. When there is a glucose build-up in the bloodstream, the body gets an illusion that it is starving and is being deprived of food. Therefore, it finds a way to compensate by creating energy by burning fat and muscles rapidly. This causes weight loss. 

Diabetes results in other complications – for example – to eliminate the excess sugars in the blood, the kidneys begin to work overtime. The additional energy can cause damage to the kidneys. Other issues that can be comorbid with diabetes would be – heart conditions, diabetic retinopathy, risk of limb damage, pancreatic dysfunctions, diabetic neuropathy, etc. These conditions also use up the resources and energy within the body, and along with the medications, can cause weight loss and fatigue too. 

Other Common Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes is now a common condition. It is unfortunate that younger children are also getting diagnosed with it and will have to manage their symptoms and lifestyle throughout life. There can be several symptoms associated with diabetes along with does diabetes cause weight loss which can be a cause of concern for the people living with it and even the caregivers.

Here are the other common symptoms of diabetes:

  1. Frequent urination
  2. Shaking of hands/ trembling
  3. Feeling thirsty and drinking more water than usual
  4. Blurry vision
  5. Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  6. Dry mouth and feeling parched.
  7. Dizziness and tiredness
  8. Feeling anxious and racing thoughts
  9. Increased heartbeat and palpitations
  10. Headaches 

When to See Doctor?

Unexplained weight loss can be a concern that would need medical attention if it was drastic and frequent. A loss of a few kgs may not need immediate care however, in case the weight loss is so much that it causes a significant loss of energy and extreme tiredness and inability to perform simple daily actions, a visit to a healthcare professional might be required. When there is a loss of more than 5% of the total body weight within 6-12 months, that is when you might require to visit your team of doctors for guidance. 

Weight loss can also be linked to other aspects such as – fatigue, nausea, headaches, dizziness, rapid breathing, fainting, etc. Many hypoglycemic episodes in succession can also cause the body to feel weak and tired. In case these symptoms are not coming under control even if you have tried to follow your care plan, you can visit your doctor who can try to understand and explain what might be causing this. 

Make sure to note down a list of all the symptoms and get all queries answered by the doctor so that you do not miss out on anything. 

FAQs

1. How to prevent weight loss if you have diabetes? 

When diagnosed with diabetes, along with blood sugar, it is also important to maintain an optimal weight range. Ensure that you are eating nutritious food and on time. Do not skip out on ALL the carbs, as some carbs are necessary for the body as they provide glucose. Eat a lot of fiber and also engage in physical exercise.

2. What are the early signs of diabetes?

The early signs of diabetes would be seen in the form of prediabetes or high blood sugars (fasting or otherwise). For more symptoms, you can keep a watch for – excessive thirst, hunger, urination, blurriness in vision, palpitations, anxiety, shaking, etc.

3. What causes diabetes?

Diabetes can be caused due to a few reasons – genetic, autoimmune, unhealthy lifestyle, pregnancy (gestational diabetes), excessive stress, insulin resistance in the body, pancreatic tumors, etc.

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