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Cachexia (Wasting Syndrome)


Cachexia is also known as the wasting syndrome because the body starts to waste away as it continues to lose weight and muscle mass. If you’ve experienced weight loss or you’ve witnessed someone experience weight loss fast and in a short time, you’re probably witnessing the wasting syndrome, or cachexia, especially if you or your loved one have been sick for a while. Cachexia doesn’t just happen; it always follows in the wake of an underlying illness.

About 50-80 percent of cancer patients suffer from cachexia, although we can’t specifically ascertain that all cancer illnesses are related to cachexia. However, you’ll mostly find the wasting syndrome associated with cancer of the pancreas, esophagus, stomach, and lungs.

Symptoms of cachexia

The symptoms of cachexia (wasting syndrome) include:

1. Involuntary weight loss: A person might just discover that they’re losing weight even though they’re eating well and consuming enough calories.

2. Muscle wasting: People with cachexia, most of the time, end up looking malnourished, especially if they were already thin. But for those that were overweight, suddenly drop to an average size because they’ve lost a lot of weight.

3. Loss of appetite: A person who has cachexia may be suffering from anorexia too, which is a loss of appetite for food.

4. Reduced Agility: A person suffering from cachexia may start experiencing undue tiredness, fatigue, malaise, and an overall feeling of discomfort and unwillingness to do anything.

5. Swelling or edema: Due to a lack of appetite, the level of protein in the body becomes low and this causes fluid to enter the tissue, which later results in swelling.

Cachexia is not easily identifiable, so doctors’ devices need a means for diagnosis. Before a person can be said to be suffering from cachexia, they have to meet the two criteria for the diagnosis. One is losing more than 5% of body weight unintentionally within 6-12 months. The second one is a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 20 for people below 65 years old and a BMI below 22 for people over 65 years old.

Causes of cachexia

Cachexia is a complicated syndrome. Its causes cannot be pinpointed to a certain thing since it depends largely on a person’s physiology and the sickness they’ve had before then. However, according to research, the following factors are said to be the main causes of cachexia:

  • Increased metabolic rate and energy exertion
  • Lack of nutrients in the body or reduced intake of nutrients
  • Increased breakdown of muscle
  • Preventing muscle growth

Risk factors

Cachexia usually comes on after a severe health condition. Anyone with any of these conditions should liaise with their doctors to come up with ways to stop the attack of cachexia and how to handle it if it happens.

  • Cancer
  • Chronic renal failure
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • HIV
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Prevention of cachexia

Cachexia is not a sickness that suddenly appears on its own; it usually trails after a severe health condition. So when thinking of prevention, the focus should be on how to avoid that initial health condition.

Some of the medical conditions, like HIV, can be avoidable. But other conditions like cancer or Crohn’s disease may not be preventable.

Nonetheless, a good and healthy lifestyle can help to keep this medical condition at bay and ultimately help to avoid cachexia.

Note: The information in this article is for educational purposes only. Medical Marijuana Cards California is not trying to give you any professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Do not use the information on this page to try to diagnose yourself or give yourself treatment. Before making a decision on how and where to treat a medical condition, you should always talk to a doctor.

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You can get a medical marijuana ID card with a physician’s recommendation. If you have one, your cannabis purchases are exempt from sales and use tax. Medical marijuana ID cards are valid for up to one year. Both patients and their primary caregivers can get a card.