Approach to Patients with Unintentional Weight Loss

Med Clin North Am. 2021 Jan;105(1):175-186. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2020.08.019. Epub 2020 Nov 7.


Unintentional weight loss is a common clinical problem with a broad differential diagnosis that is clinically important because of the associated risks of morbidity and mortality. Community-dwelling adults are often diagnosed with malignancy, nonmalignant gastrointestinal disorders, and psychiatric disorders as the cause of unintentional weight loss, whereas institutionalized older adults are diagnosed most often with psychiatric disorders. Up to a quarter of patients do not have a diagnosis after comprehensive workup, and close follow-up is warranted. Treatment involves management of underlying causes.

Keywords: Involuntary weight loss; Malignancy; Older adults; Unintended weight loss; Unintentional weight loss; Weight loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Chronic Disease
  • Communicable Diseases / complications
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Endocrine System Diseases / complications
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Physical Examination
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / complications
  • Rheumatic Diseases / complications
  • Weight Loss* / physiology