A Saint Louis University physician is concerned that doctors are not taking proper steps to pick up on problems with excessive weight loss, scientifically known as "cachexia", pronounced kuh-kex-ee-uh.
"In sick people, weight loss is an important indicator of disease and potentially impending death," said Dr. John Morley, an endocrinologist and director of the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
"Cachexia is an extraordinary problem for people who are having other health problems, yet this is something that many physicians don't pay attention to," he added.
A group of physicians and scientists agreed on a definition of cachexia, published in the journal Clinical Nutrition recently.
"The definition is important because it gives physicians the guidelines to make a diagnosis and treat the condition. A definition of cachexia also makes it easier for scientists to conduct research and potentially develop new therapies for the problem," Morley said.
He highlighted the fact that cochexia accompanies diseases like cancer, congestive heart failure, HIV, diabetes, kidney failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
He suggests that people who traditionally have had difficulty taking off weight, and suddenly find the pounds melting off should, better beware because they may be ill, and could get even sicker as they become weaker and weaker.
"Cachexia should be seen as a wasting disease that requires specialized treatment from a physician who is familiar with the problem," Morley said.