Unexplained weight loss, or losing weight without trying — particularly if it's significant or persistent — may be a sign of an underlying medical disorder.

The point at which unexplained weight loss becomes a medical concern is not exact. But many doctors agree that a medical evaluation is called for if you lose more than 5 percent of your weight in six months to a year, especially if you're an older adult. For example, a 5 percent weight loss in someone who is 160 pounds (72 kilograms) is 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms). In someone who is 200 pounds (90 kilograms), it's 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms).

Your weight is affected by your calorie intake, activity level, overall health, age, nutrient absorption, and economic and social factors.

Get the latest health information from Mayo Clinic’s experts.

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

May 18, 2021

See also

  1. 6 tips to manage rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
  2. Acanthosis nigricans
  3. Addison's disease
  4. Adjuvant therapy for cancer
  5. Adrenal fatigue: What causes it?
  6. Alcoholic hepatitis
  7. Alternative cancer treatments: 10 options to consider
  8. Amputation and diabetes
  9. Amyloidosis
  10. Angina
  11. Anorexia nervosa
  12. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing?
  13. Antidepressants and alcohol: What's the concern?
  14. Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?
  15. Antidepressants: Can they stop working?
  16. Antidepressants for children and teens
  17. Antidepressants: Side effects
  18. Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you
  19. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
  20. Artificial sweeteners: Any effect on blood sugar?
  21. Ascariasis
  22. Aspergillosis
  23. Atypical antidepressants
  24. Atypical cells: Are they cancer?
  25. Bezoars: How do they happen?
  26. Bile reflux
  27. Binge-eating disorder
  28. Biopsy procedures
  29. Infographic: Blood Cancer Awareness
  30. Blood glucose meters
  31. Blood glucose monitors
  32. Blood sugar levels can fluctuate for many reasons
  33. Blood sugar testing: Why, when and how
  34. Bone and joint problems associated with diabetes
  35. Bone cancer
  36. Dr. Wallace Video
  37. Build resilience to better handle diabetes
  38. C. difficile infection
  39. Caffeine and depression: Is there a link?
  40. Caffeine: Does it affect blood sugar?
  41. Cancer
  42. Cancer blood tests
  43. Myths about cancer causes
  44. Infographic: Cancer Clinical Trials Offer Many Benefits
  45. Cancer diagnosis: 11 tips for coping
  46. Cancer diagnosis? Advice for dealing with what comes next
  47. Cancer-related fatigue
  48. Cancer pain: Relief is possible
  49. Cancer risk: What the numbers mean
  50. Cancer surgery
  51. Cancer survival rate
  52. Cancer survivors: Care for your body after treatment
  53. Cancer survivors: Late effects of cancer treatment
  54. Cancer survivors: Managing your emotions after cancer treatment
  55. Cancer survivors: Reconnecting with loved ones after treatment
  56. Cancer treatment decisions: 5 steps to help you decide
  57. Cancer treatment for men: Possible sexual side effects
  58. Cancer treatment for women: Possible sexual side effects
  59. Cancer treatment myths
  60. Cancer Vaccine Research
  61. Carcinoid tumors
  62. Caring for a loved one with diabetes
  63. Castleman disease
  64. Celiac disease
  65. Celiac disease: Can gluten be absorbed through the skin?
  66. Celiac disease diet: How do I get enough grains?
  67. Chase away the winter blues
  68. Chemotherapy side effects: A cause of heart disease?
  69. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  70. Chronic myelogenous leukemia
  71. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  72. Cirrhosis
  73. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  74. Colon cancer
  75. Colon Cancer Family Registry
  76. Colon cancer screening: At what age can you stop?
  77. Colon cancer screening
  78. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  79. Coronary artery spasm: Cause for concern?
  80. Crohn's Crisis
  81. Crohn's disease
  82. Crohn's disease symptom: Is fatigue common?
  83. Crohn's or Colitis
  84. Cryptosporidium infection
  85. Curcumin: Can it slow cancer growth?
  86. Cyclospora infection
  87. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  88. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  89. Depression: Diagnosis is key
  90. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  91. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  92. Depression: Provide support, encouragement
  93. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  94. Dermatomyositis
  95. Diabetes
  96. Diabetes and dental care
  97. Diabetes and depression: Coping with the two conditions
  98. Diabetes and exercise: When to monitor your blood sugar
  99. Diabetes and fasting: Can I fast during Ramadan?
  100. Diabetes and foot care
  101. Diabetes and Heat
  102. Diabetes and menopause
  103. Diabetes and summer: How to beat the heat
  104. Diabetes and travel: Planning is key
  105. Diabetes and electric blankets
  106. 10 ways to avoid diabetes complications
  107. Diabetes diet: Should I avoid sweet fruits?
  108. Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan
  109. Diabetes: Does alcohol and tobacco use increase my risk?
  110. Diabetes foods: Can I substitute honey for sugar?
  111. Diabetes and liver
  112. Diabetes insipidus
  113. Diabetes management: Does aspirin therapy prevent heart problems?
  114. Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar
  115. Diabetes: Eating out
  116. Diabetes nutrition: Sweets
  117. Diabetes prevention: 5 tips for taking control
  118. Diabetes symptoms
  119. Diabetes treatment: Can cinnamon lower blood sugar?
  120. Medications for type 2 diabetes
  121. Using insulin
  122. Diabetic Gastroparesis
  123. Diabetic neuropathy
  124. Diabetic neuropathy and dietary supplements
  125. Types of diabetic neuropathy
  126. Cancer-related diarrhea
  127. Does stress make rheumatoid arthritis worse?
  128. Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  129. Dysphagia
  130. Early HIV symptoms: What are they?
  131. Ease rheumatoid arthritis pain when grocery shopping
  132. Eating during cancer treatment: Tips to make food tastier
  133. Ebola transmission: Can Ebola spread through the air?
  134. Ebola virus and Marburg virus
  135. Esophageal cancer
  136. Infographic: Esophageal Cancer
  137. Ewing sarcoma
  138. Fibromuscular dysplasia
  139. Fish oil and depression
  140. Gallbladder cancer
  141. Gastroparesis
  142. GI Stents
  143. Giant cell arteritis
  144. Giardia infection (giardiasis)
  145. GLP-1 agonists: Diabetes drugs and weight loss
  146. Glycemic index: A helpful tool for diabetes?
  147. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  148. Graves' dermopathy: How is it treated?
  149. Graves' disease
  150. H. Pylori
  151. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
  152. Hairy cell leukemia
  153. Heart cancer: Is there such a thing?
  154. High-dose vitamin C: Can it kill cancer cells?
  155. Histoplasmosis
  156. HIV/AIDS
  157. Hodgkin's lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease)
  158. Hodgkin's vs. non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: What's the difference?
  159. How do I reduce fatigue from rheumatoid arthritis?
  160. How opioid addiction occurs
  161. How to tell if a loved one is abusing opioids
  162. How to use opioids safely
  163. Hyperinsulinemia: Is it diabetes?
  164. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  165. Hypopituitarism
  166. Infographic: Innovative Rectal Cancer Treatments
  167. Insulin and weight gain
  168. Insulin therapy options
  169. Intensive insulin therapy
  170. Intestinal ischemia
  171. Is depression a factor in rheumatoid arthritis?
  172. Depression and diet
  173. Kidney cancer
  174. Kidney Cancer
  175. Infographic: Kidney Cancer
  176. Kratom for opioid withdrawal
  177. Late-night eating: OK if you have diabetes?
  178. LADA
  179. Preventing lead exposure
  180. Lead poisoning
  181. Leukemia
  182. Lexapro side effects: Is breast tenderness common?
  183. Liver cancer
  184. Infographic: Liver Cancer
  185. Living better with rheumatoid arthritis
  186. Low blood counts
  187. Lung cancer
  188. Infographic: Lung Cancer
  189. Lung nodules: Can they be cancerous?
  190. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  191. Diabetes and carbs
  192. Mangosteen juice: Can it relieve arthritis pain?
  193. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  194. Marijuana and depression
  195. Measles Virus as a Cancer Fighter
  196. Mesothelioma
  197. Mild depression: Are antidepressants effective?
  198. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  199. Monoclonal antibody drugs
  200. Mort Crim and Cancer
  201. Mouth sores caused by cancer treatment: How to cope
  202. Multiple myeloma
  203. Infographic: Multiple Myeloma
  204. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  205. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  206. Neuroblastoma
  207. No appetite? How to get nutrition during cancer treatment
  208. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  209. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  210. Norovirus infection
  211. Opioids and other drugs: What to watch for
  212. Osteoporosis and long-term prednisone: What is the risk?
  213. Living with an ostomy
  214. Pain and depression: Is there a link?
  215. Palindromic rheumatism: Precursor to rheumatoid arthritis?
  216. Pancreatic cancer
  217. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery
  218. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
  219. Pancreatic cancer treatment: Why is it so challenging?
  220. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancers-Whipple
  221. Pancreatitis
  222. Peptic ulcer
  223. Pheochromocytoma
  224. Photodynamic therapy: An effective treatment for lung cancer?
  225. Pituitary tumors
  226. Polymyalgia rheumatica
  227. Postpartum thyroiditis
  228. PrEP to prevent HIV
  229. Prescription drug abuse
  230. Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  231. Protect your joints while housecleaning
  232. Pulmonary fibrosis
  233. Pyloric stenosis
  234. Reactive hypoglycemia: What can I do?
  235. Reading food labels
  236. Rectal cancer
  237. Recurrent breast cancer
  238. Rethinking Rheumatoid Arthritis
  239. Rheumatoid arthritis
  240. Rheumatoid Arthritis
  241. Rheumatoid arthritis: Does pregnancy affect symptoms?
  242. Rheumatoid arthritis and exercise
  243. Rheumatoid arthritis: Vaccines
  244. Rheumatoid arthritis diet
  245. Rheumatoid arthritis: Can it affect the eyes?
  246. Rheumatoid arthritis: Can it affect the lungs?
  247. Rheumatoid arthritis medications: Dangerous during pregnancy?
  248. Rheumatoid arthritis pain: Tips for protecting your joints
  249. Salt craving: A symptom of Addison's disease?
  250. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  251. Choosing a light box
  252. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  253. Self-Image During Cancer
  254. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  255. Service dogs assist with diabetes care
  256. Sheehan's syndrome
  257. Blood sugar testing
  258. Radiation simulation
  259. Small cell, large cell cancer: What this means
  260. Stomach cancer
  261. Infographic: Stomach Cancer
  262. Super Survivor Conquers Cancer
  263. Takayasu's arteritis
  264. Tapering off opioids: When and how
  265. Tapeworm infection
  266. Teen depression
  267. Thalidomide: Research advances in cancer and other conditions
  268. The dawn phenomenon: What can you do?
  269. Throat cancer
  270. Thyroid disease: Can it affect a person's mood?
  271. Thyroid nodules
  272. Tips for coping with rheumatoid arthritis
  273. Tips for cutting costs of blood glucose test strips
  274. Tips to make your mornings easier
  275. Toxic hepatitis
  276. Treating pain: When is an opioid the right choice?
  277. Treatment-resistant depression
  278. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  279. Tuberculosis
  280. Tumor vs. cyst: What's the difference?
  281. Type 1 diabetes
  282. Type 1 diabetes in children
  283. Type 2 diabetes
  284. Type 2 diabetes in children
  285. Typhoid fever
  286. Ulcerative colitis
  287. Ulcerative colitis flare-ups: 5 tips to manage them
  288. Use these tips to help children prevent diabetes
  289. Valley fever
  290. Vasculitis
  291. Vegetarian diet: Can it help me control my diabetes?
  292. How cancer spreads
  293. How diabetes affects your blood sugar
  294. PICC line placement
  295. Video-kidney cancer patient-tattoo
  296. Vitamin B-12 and depression
  297. Vitamin deficiency anemia
  298. What are opioids and why are they dangerous?
  299. When cancer returns: How to cope with cancer recurrence
  300. Whipple's disease
  301. Your secret weapon during cancer treatment? Exercise!
  302. Fecal transplant treatment of C. difficile at Mayo Clinic
  303. Mayo Clinic study reporting increased incidence of C. difficile infection
  304. Kidney Cancer — Bradley Leibovich, M.D., Mayo Clinic
  305. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome