A decreased appetite is when you have a reduced desire to eat. The medical term for a loss of appetite is anorexia.
Any illness can affect a previously hearty appetite. If the illness is treatable, the appetite should return when the condition is cured.
Loss of appetite can cause unintentional weight loss.
A decreased appetite is almost always seen among elderly adults, and no cause may be found. However, sadness, depression, grief, or anxiety are a common cause of weight loss that is not explained by other factors, especially among the elderly.
Cancer may also cause decreased appetite. You may lose weight without trying. Cancers that may cause you to lose your appetite include:
Other causes of decreased appetite include:
People with a cancer or a chronic illness will need to learn how to increase protein and calorie intake by eating high-calorie, nutritious snacks or several small meals during the day. Liquid protein drinks may be helpful.
Family members should try to supply favorite foods to help stimulate the person's appetite.
Keep a record of what you eat and drink for 24 hours. This is called a diet history.
Call your health care provider if you are losing a lot of weight without trying.
Encourage the person to seek medical help if their decreased appetite occurs along with other signs of depression, drug or alcohol abuse, or an eating disorder.
For loss of appetite caused by taking medications, ask your health care provider about changing the dosage or drug. Never stop taking medications without first talking to your health care provider.
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and will check the person's height and weight.
The health care provider will ask questions about the person's diet and medical history. Questions may include:
Tests that may be done to determine the cause of a decreased appetite include:
In cases of severe malnutrition, nutrients are given through a vein (intravenously). This may require a hospital stay.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.