What causes increased appetite? 19 possible conditions

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What Is Increased Appetite?

Increased appetite is when you want to eat much more often or in larger quantities than your body requires. This may or may not result in weight gain.

Your hunger should be relieved when you eat. It is normal to have an increased appetite after physical exertion, but this is generally alleviated after eating. However, a significantly increased appetite over a prolonged period could be a symptom of a serious illness, such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism. If you are experiencing excessive hunger that is ongoing, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Your doctor may refer to this condition as hyperphagia or polyphagia. Treatment for increased appetite will depend on its underlying cause.

Causes of Increased Appetite

You may have an increased appetite after engaging in sports or exercise. However, if it persists, it can be a symptom of a variety of conditions, including:

  • stress or anxiety
  • depression
  • premenstrual syndrome (the physical and emotional symptoms that precede menstruation)
  • reaction to medications, including corticosteroids, cyproheptadine, and tricyclic antidepressants
  • bulimia (a condition that causes people to go on eating binges and then induce vomiting or use laxatives so as not to gain weight)
  • hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland)
  • Graves disease (an autoimmune disease causing the thyroid to produce too much hormone)
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels)
  • diabetes (a chronic condition in which the body has trouble regulating blood sugar levels)

Diagnosing Increased Appetite

If you have a persistently increased appetite, especially if it is accompanied by additional symptoms, you should contact your physician.

Your doctor will probably want to perform a thorough physical examination and note your current weight. He or she will likely ask you a series of questions, which may include:

  • Have you previously been diagnosed with any chronic disease?
  • What prescription or over-the-counter medications or supplements do you take?
  • Are you trying to diet?
  • Have you gained or lost a substantial amount of weight?
  • Did your eating habits change prior to your increased appetite?
  • Have you changed your eating habits?
  • What is your typical daily diet like?
  • Do you also have increased urination?
  • Do you feel increased thirst?
  • Does your pattern of excessive hunger coincide with your menstrual cycle?
  • Do you exercise?
  • Have you recently been ill?
  • Do you use alcohol or illegal drugs?
  • Are you vomiting, either intentionally or unintentionally?
  • Are you feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed?
  • Do you have any other physical symptoms?

Diagnostic testing for increased appetite may include blood tests and thyroid function testing to measure the level of thyroid hormones in your body.

If no physical cause can be determined, your doctor may recommend a psychological evaluation to learn about and predict your behavior relating to increased appetite.

Treating Increased Appetite

Do not attempt to treat yourself with the use of over-the-counter appetite suppressants without consulting your doctor. Treatment for an excessive appetite will depend on the cause. Any underlying medical conditions will need to be addressed.

Hypoglycemia is when your blood sugar (glucose) level is too low (below 70 mg/dL). This is a medical emergency. If not properly treated, hypoglycemia can lead to loss of consciousness. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you will learn how to control your blood sugar levels, how to recognize the early warning signs of hypoglycemia, and how to take steps to correct the problem quickly.

Conditions such as eating disorders and depression will likely involve psychological counseling, along with a long-term medical treatment plan.

Diseases such as diabetes and disorders such as hyperthyroidism require careful evaluation, monitoring, and individualized treatment.

In some cases, psychological counseling may be required. If your appetite problems are caused by medications, you doctor may be able to change the dosage or try an alternative medication. You should never attempt to change the dosage or stop taking your prescription drugs without the advice of your doctor.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.

1

Pregnancy

Bleeding or spotting, increased need to urinate, tender breasts, fatigue, nausea, and missed period are signs of pregnancy.

Read more »

2

Diabetes Overview

Diabetes is a group of chronic metabolic diseases caused by defects in insulin production or function. Advanced diabetes may cause stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, and cramps.

Read more »

3

Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Also known as hypoglycemia, low blood sugar can be a dangerous condition. Hypoglycemia is rare in people who are not suffering from diabetes, the chronic disease that affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar...

Read more »

4

Depression Overview

Depression is a mood disorder that can cause extreme and persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Depression type largely determines what kind of medical treatment is best.

Read more »

5

Anxiety

What is anxiety? Anxiety often manifests itself as an apprehension about daily life. Learn the basics with this overview of the types of anxiety disorders.

Read more »

6

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression. People affected by SAD display symptoms of depression at the same time every year, typically during the fall and winter months. According to the America...

Read more »

7

Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating followed by purging, often through forced vomiting.

Read more »

8

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression affects as many as 13 percent of new mothers. In the U.S., that's half a million women. Learn about symptoms, causes, risks, and more.

Read more »

9

Graves' Disease

Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder that leads to hyperthyroidism and causes thyroid swelling.

Read more »

10

Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid gland produces a hormone that controls how your cells use energy (metabolize). Hyperthyroidism occurs when the body produces excessive amounts, causing rapid heart rates, weight loss, and heat intolerance.

Read more »

11

Glucagonoma

Glucagon is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Glucagon works in balance with insulin to control the amount of sugar in your blood. One form of pancreatic cancer is glucagonoma. Glucagonoma tumor cells produce larg...

Read more »

12

Gestational Diabetes

During pregnancy, some women develop high levels of blood sugar, a condition known as gestational diabetes, or gestational diabetes mellitus. GDM typically occurs around your 24th week of pregnancy. According to th...

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13

Marijuana Dependence

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Uncontrollable or overly frequent marijuana consumption may indicate abuse or addiction.

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14

Type 2 Diabetes Overview

Type 2 diabetes, is a common chronic metabolic disease that leads to abnormally high levels of blood sugar in the blood. This blood sugar is also referred to as "glucose."

Read more »

15

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease. People with type 1 have high levels of glucose in their blood. Glucose is a natural sugar that your body uses as a source of energy. It is obtained from food. Extra glucose i...

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16

AIDS

HIV causes progressive failure of the immune system, making the body far more susceptible to infections and cancer.

Read more »

17

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a recessive genetic disorder that can lead to serious complications or even put your life at risk. It may cause severe problems in the lungs, pancreas, liver, and intestine. It is an inherite...

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18

The Deadly Potential of Digitalis: Digitalis Toxicity

Digitalis toxicity (DT) occurs when you take too much digitalis (also known as digoxin or digitoxin), a medication used to treat heart conditions. Signs of toxicity include nausea, vomiting, and an irregular heartbeat...

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19

Nicotine Dependence

Nicotine addiction occurs when a person becomes addicted to nicotine, which is a chemical found in tobacco. The addiction is physical, mental, and behavioral.

Read more »

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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