Cachexia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Publish Date: July 8th, 2021; Author: Darren M. Jorgenson.
Cachexia Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Cachexia is a wasting disorder that generates extreme muscle wasting and weight loss and can also include body fat loss. It affects the people who are in the late stages of some severe diseases like HIV, kidney disease, cancer, and congestive heart failure.

You must be thinking that it is just a weight loss like any other disease. Still, the difference between other types of weight loss and cachexia is that it is involuntary as the people who are developing it do not lose weight due to exercises or diet. They lose weight because they eat less for several reasons.

The person’s metabolism changes that cause their body to break down too much muscle. Researchers believe that cachexia or wasting syndrome is a part of the body’s response to fight disease. To get more energy to fuel the brain when its nutrition stores are low, the person’s body breaks down the fat and muscles.

You must be thinking that it is just a weight loss, but in reality, the person loses weight and gets so weak. This makes their body vulnerable to several infections that make them more likely to die from this health condition. However, simply taking more nutrition and calories also won’t help.

Cachexia is of several types. Let us first get familiar with its categories.

Cachexia Categories

Here are the three main categories of cachexia

  1. Pre Cachexia

    Precachexia refers to losing up to five percent of the body weight while having a known disease or illness. Pre Cachexia is accompanied by inflammation, metabolism changes, and appetite loss.

  2. Cachexia

    Cachexia refers to losing more than five percent of the body weight over 12 months or less. And this occurs when you are not even trying to lose weight and have a known disease or illness. It is accompanied by decreased appetite, loss of muscle strength, and inflammation.

  3. Refractory Cachexia

    Refractory cachexia occurs in cancer patients. It is muscle loss, weight loss, function loss, and a failure to respond to the cancer treatment.

Cancer and Cachexia

Do you know that up to eighty percent of the people with a later stage cancer have developed cachexia? Yes, close to one-third of people die due to this health condition. Quite strange!

The tumor cells release substances that diminish the appetite. Cancer treatment also causes damage in the digestive tract or severe nausea, making it difficult to eat and absorb nutrients. As the body doesn’t get enough nutrients, it burns muscle and fats. Consequently, the cancer cells use fewer nutrients left to help them survive and multiply.

Well, we got the general idea of the disease, but still, what causes the disease? Let us check it out.

Causes of Cachexia and associated health conditions

Cachexia occurs in the late stage of several debilitating health conditions, including:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms of Cachexia

We know that the primary symptoms of the health disease include weight loss and muscle mass. However, some people also look malnourished, while others might appear to be at an average weight.

Here is the list of symptoms associated with the health condition, and for the diagnosis of the health condition, you must have at least three of these findings.

  • Appetite loss
  • Reduced muscle strength
  • Fatigue
  • High levels of inflammation identified by blood tests
  • Low fat-free mass index
  • Low levels of protein, albumin
  • Anemia

What are the treatments for the health condition?

There is no specific cure for cachexia. That means there is no way to reverse cachexia. However, the treatment aims to improve the symptoms and quality of life. The current therapies for cachexia include:

  • Drugs such as dronabinol to improve appetite, mood, and nausea
  • Appetite stimulants like megestrol acetate
  • Diet changes
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Medications that decrease inflammation
  • Adapted exercise

What are the complications?

Cachexia can be severe as it can complicate the entire treatment for the primary condition that caused it and lowers the treatment’s response. People diagnosed with cancer having cachexia are usually less able to tolerate chemotherapy and several other treatments.

Consequently, people with cachexia have a lower quality of life.

Bottom Line!

Currently, there is no treatment for cachexia. Even the research is ongoing, and researchers are learning more about the reasons causing it. However, various studies have investigated the substances that protect the person or rebuild the muscles and accelerate weight gain. For this reason, people are inclined towards some natural remedies that may help them improve their health. Wondering what it would be? Well, stay connected as we will reveal the name of one such natural remedy that can be an escape for you.


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