When to see a doctor

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're losing weight without trying and you're concerned about it, consult your health care provider. As a rule of thumb, losing more than 5% of your weight over 6 to 12 months may indicate a problem. If you're an older adult with other medical conditions and health issues, even a smaller amount of weight loss may be significant.

Your health care provider can work with you to try to determine what's causing the weight loss. You'll likely start with a thorough discussion of your symptoms, medications, general mental and physical health, and medical conditions. Also, your provider will probably do a physical exam.

Your health care provider also will likely review any recent cancer screenings you may have had. These can include a colon cancer screening test, breast exam and mammogram, or a prostate exam. This can help determine if additional testing is needed.

Your provider may also discuss changes in your diet or appetite and sense of taste and smell. These can affect your eating and weight and may be related to some medical conditions.

Your health care provider may order blood and urine tests that can give information about your general health. You may have other tests based on these results. Imaging scans to look for hidden cancers are not usually done unless some other clue in addition to weight loss points in that direction.

Sometimes, if the basic evaluation does not identify a cause, watchful waiting for 1 to 6 months is a reasonable next step. Your health care provider may suggest that you stop any restrictive dieting. You may need a special diet to prevent further weight loss or to regain lost pounds. Your provider can refer you to a dietitian who can offer suggestions on getting enough calories.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. Click here for an email preview.

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.

Aug. 17, 2022

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. Amputation and diabetes
  8. Amyloidosis
  9. Angina
  10. Anorexia nervosa
  11. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing?
  12. Antidepressants and alcohol: What's the concern?
  13. Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?
  14. Antidepressants: Can they stop working?
  15. Antidepressants for children and teens
  16. Antidepressants: Side effects
  17. Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you
  18. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
  19. Artificial sweeteners: Any effect on blood sugar?
  20. Ascariasis
  21. Aspergillosis
  22. Atypical antidepressants
  23. Atypical cells: Are they cancer?
  24. Bile reflux
  25. Binge-eating disorder
  26. Biopsy procedures
  27. Blood glucose meters
  28. Blood glucose monitors
  29. Blood sugar levels can fluctuate for many reasons
  30. Blood sugar testing: Why, when and how
  31. Bone and joint problems associated with diabetes
  32. Bone cancer
  33. Dr. Wallace Video
  34. Dr. Mark Truty (surgery, MN) better outcomes with chemo
  35. C. difficile infection
  36. Caffeine: Does it affect blood sugar?
  37. Cancer
  38. Cancer
  39. Cancer blood tests
  40. Myths about cancer causes
  41. Infographic: Cancer Clinical Trials Offer Many Benefits
  42. Cancer diagnosis: 11 tips for coping
  43. Cancer-related fatigue
  44. Cancer pain: Relief is possible
  45. Cancer risk: What the numbers mean
  46. Cancer surgery
  47. Cancer survival rate
  48. Cancer survivors: Care for your body after treatment
  49. Cancer survivors: Late effects of cancer treatment
  50. Cancer survivors: Managing your emotions after cancer treatment
  51. Cancer treatment myths
  52. Carcinoid tumors
  53. Castleman disease
  54. Celiac disease
  55. Chemotherapy side effects: A cause of heart disease?
  56. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  57. Chronic myelogenous leukemia
  58. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  59. Cirrhosis
  60. What is cirrhosis? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  61. Cirrhosis FAQs
  62. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  63. Colon cancer
  64. Colon Cancer Family Registry
  65. Colon cancer screening: At what age can you stop?
  66. Colon cancer screening
  67. Colorectal Cancer
  68. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  69. Coronary artery spasm: Cause for concern?
  70. Crohn's Crisis
  71. Crohn's disease
  72. Crohn's disease and the gut microbiome
  73. What is Crohn's disease? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  74. Crohn's or Colitis
  75. Curcumin: Can it slow cancer growth?
  76. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  77. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  78. What is depression? A Mayo Clinic expert explains.
  79. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  80. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  81. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  82. Dermatomyositis
  83. Diabetes
  84. Diabetes and depression: Coping with the two conditions
  85. Diabetes and exercise: When to monitor your blood sugar
  86. Diabetes and heat
  87. What is type 1 diabetes? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  88. 10 ways to avoid diabetes complications
  89. Diabetes diet: Should I avoid sweet fruits?
  90. Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan
  91. Diabetes foods: Can I substitute honey for sugar?
  92. Diabetes and liver
  93. Diabetes insipidus
  94. Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar
  95. Diabetes prevention: 5 tips for taking control
  96. Type 1 diabetes FAQs
  97. Diabetes symptoms
  98. Diabetes treatment: Can cinnamon lower blood sugar?
  99. Medications for type 2 diabetes
  100. Using insulin
  101. Diabetic Gastroparesis
  102. Diabetic neuropathy
  103. Diabetic neuropathy and dietary supplements
  104. Types of diabetic neuropathy
  105. Cancer-related diarrhea
  106. Does stress make rheumatoid arthritis worse?
  107. Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  108. Dysphagia
  109. Early HIV symptoms: What are they?
  110. Ease rheumatoid arthritis pain when grocery shopping
  111. Eating during cancer treatment: Tips to make food tastier
  112. Esophageal cancer
  113. Esophageal Cancer
  114. Ewing sarcoma
  115. Fibromuscular dysplasia
  116. Floor of the mouth cancer
  117. Gallbladder cancer
  118. Gallbladder polyps: Can they be cancerous?
  119. Gastroparesis
  120. GI Stents
  121. Giant cell arteritis
  122. Giardia infection (giardiasis)
  123. GLP-1 agonists: Diabetes drugs and weight loss
  124. Glycemic index: A helpful tool for diabetes?
  125. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  126. Graves' disease
  127. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
  128. Hairy cell leukemia
  129. Heart cancer: Is there such a thing?
  130. High-dose vitamin C: Can it kill cancer cells?
  131. Histoplasmosis
  132. HIV/AIDS
  133. Hodgkin's lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease)
  134. Hodgkin's vs. non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: What's the difference?
  135. How do I reduce fatigue from rheumatoid arthritis?
  136. How opioid use disorder occurs
  137. How to tell if a loved one is abusing opioids
  138. Hyperinsulinemia: Is it diabetes?
  139. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  140. Hypopituitarism
  141. Insulin and weight gain
  142. Intestinal ischemia
  143. Is depression a factor in rheumatoid arthritis?
  144. Is there a special diet for Crohn's disease?
  145. Kidney cancer
  146. Kidney Cancer
  147. What is kidney cancer? An expert explains
  148. Kidney cancer FAQs
  149. Kratom for opioid withdrawal
  150. Late-night eating: OK if you have diabetes?
  151. LADA
  152. Lead poisoning
  153. Leukemia
  154. Liver cancer
  155. What is liver cancer? An expert explains
  156. Liver cancer FAQs
  157. Living better with Crohn's disease
  158. Living better with rheumatoid arthritis
  159. Low blood counts
  160. Lung cancer
  161. Infographic: Lung Cancer
  162. Lung Cancer
  163. Lung nodules: Can they be cancerous?
  164. Maintain your social life with Crohn's disease
  165. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  166. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  167. Marijuana and depression
  168. Measles Virus as a Cancer Fighter
  169. Mesothelioma
  170. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  171. Monoclonal antibody drugs
  172. Mort Crim and Cancer
  173. Mouth sores caused by cancer treatment: How to cope
  174. Multiple myeloma
  175. Infographic: Multiple Myeloma
  176. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  177. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  178. Neuroblastoma
  179. What is ulcerative colitis? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  180. No appetite? How to get nutrition during cancer treatment
  181. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  182. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  183. Norovirus infection
  184. Opioid stewardship: What is it?
  185. Living with an ostomy
  186. Pain and depression: Is there a link?
  187. Pancreatic cancer
  188. Pancreatic Cancer
  189. What is pancreatic cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  190. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery
  191. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
  192. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancers-Whipple
  193. Pancreatitis
  194. Peptic ulcer
  195. Pheochromocytoma
  196. Pituitary tumors
  197. Polymyalgia rheumatica
  198. Poppy seed tea: Beneficial or dangerous?
  199. Prescription drug abuse
  200. Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  201. Protect your joints while housecleaning
  202. Proton Beam Therapy
  203. Pulmonary fibrosis
  204. Pyloric stenosis
  205. Reactive hypoglycemia: What can I do?
  206. Rectal cancer
  207. Recurrent breast cancer
  208. Rethinking Rheumatoid Arthritis
  209. Rheumatoid arthritis
  210. Rheumatoid arthritis
  211. Rheumatoid arthritis: Does pregnancy affect symptoms?
  212. Rheumatoid arthritis and exercise
  213. Rheumatoid arthritis: Can it affect the eyes?
  214. Rheumatoid arthritis: Can it affect the lungs?
  215. Salt craving: A symptom of Addison's disease?
  216. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  217. Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light box
  218. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  219. Self-Image During Cancer
  220. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  221. Sheehan's syndrome
  222. Small cell, large cell cancer: What this means
  223. Staying active with Crohn's disease
  224. Stomach cancer
  225. What is stomach cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  226. Stomach cancer FAQs
  227. Super Survivor Conquers Cancer
  228. Takayasu's arteritis
  229. Tapering off opioids: When and how
  230. Tapeworm infection
  231. Teen depression
  232. The dawn phenomenon: What can you do?
  233. Throat cancer
  234. Thyroid disease: Can it affect a person's mood?
  235. Thyroid nodules
  236. Tips for easing stress when you have Crohn's disease
  237. Tips to make your mornings easier
  238. Toxic hepatitis
  239. Treatment-resistant depression
  240. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  241. Tuberculosis
  242. Tumor vs. cyst: What's the difference?
  243. Type 1 diabetes
  244. Type 1 diabetes in children
  245. Type 2 diabetes
  246. Type 2 diabetes in children
  247. Typhoid fever
  248. Ulcerative colitis
  249. Ulcerative colitis flare-ups: 5 tips to manage them
  250. Valley fever
  251. Vasculitis
  252. Vegetarian diet: Can it help me control my diabetes?
  253. How cancer spreads
  254. PICC line placement
  255. Grateful patient talks about his Mayo Clinic experience
  256. Vitamin B-12 and depression
  257. Vitamin deficiency anemia
  258. What are opioids and why are they dangerous?
  259. When cancer returns: How to cope with cancer recurrence
  260. Where can I learn more about living with Crohn's disease?
  261. Whipple's disease
  262. Xylazine
  263. Fecal transplant treatment of C. difficile at Mayo Clinic
  264. Mayo Clinic study reporting increased incidence of C. difficile infection
  265. Mayo Clinic Minute: Do not share pain medication
  266. Mayo Clinic Minute: Avoid opioids for chronic pain
  267. Mayo Clinic Minute: Be careful not to pop pain pills
  268. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome