Chapter 3: Symptoms and health concerns

Lack of appetite and loss of weight – What are they and what may cause them

One of our favourite things had been going out for brunch with the kids almost every Sunday. When his appetite wasn’t there anymore, we lost that too. The kids came over instead, and that way it wasn’t so noticeable that he wasn’t eating anything.

Lack of appetite is the feeling that you are not hungry. Most people experience a lack of appetite as their illnesss advances, and this often causes a loss of weight. Click on the switch button below to read more about each of these.

What is it?Possible causes

As a person’s illness advances, they may have no desire to eat, even if they haven’t eaten for hours or days. 

The medical term for this is anorexia; however, it is NOT the same as the eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa.

People with advanced illness related anorexia often experience fatigue and may also feel nauseated.

In advanced illness, the exact causes are of anorexia are not completely understood. Diseases change how the body works, and this often reduces the desire for food.

Other causes may include medications,  treatments, pain, constipation or bowel obstruction, sores in the mouth, and feelings of anxiety or depression.

Loss of weight

What is it?Possible causes

Weight loss for people with an advanced illness generally involves the loss of fat and muscle mass.

The medical term for this kind of weight loss and accompanying weakness is cachexia.

People with cachexia often experience fatigue and may feel nauseated.

In advanced illness, a person’s body cannot digest and use nutrients the way a healthy body can. This is the most common cause of severe weight loss in advanced illness.

Other causes may include inability to swallow food due to a blockage in the throat, esophagus, stomach, or intestines.

Decreased alertness may make swallowing unsafe.

Keeping track

Be sure to note any changes in appetite and weight loss in the tracking journal. This will help to share information with the healthcare provider.

Click here to see the questions the healthcare provider may ask. You might use these questions to guide the tracking journal.