What is Cachexia?
A “wasting” disorder which causes muscle wasting and extreme weight loss along with loss in body fat is known as cachexia. This particular syndrome affects individuals who are in the late stages of some serious disease like cancer, COPD, HIV, AIDS, congestive heart failure and kidney disease.
There are three different categories of Cachexia that experts essentially know of:
- Precachexia – when there is a loss of up to 5% of your body weight
- Cachexia – a loss of more than 5%
- Refractory Cachexia – particularly for individuals with cancer
There are quite a few Cachexia symptoms that individuals must know about. An individual should have lost about 5% of their body in a period of one year to be diagnosed with this syndrome. We have listed some of the most common symptoms across the different categories below for your reference and knowledge:
- Involuntary reduction in weight
- Loss in muscle mass
- Entering a stage of being malnourished
- Reduction in muscle strength
- Loss in appetite or even anorexia
- A very low fat-free muscle index
- Low red blood cells or anaemia
- High levels of inflammation
- Low levels of protein, albumin
An individual must be diagnosed with at least three symptoms out of the above-mentioned ones to be diagnosed with cachexia.
Who is at Risk?
There are various Cachexia risk factors as it can happen due to multiple reasons. However, experts have been able to identify certain possible risk factors related to this. Typically, an individual who is suffering from certain chronic diseases and are in the last stage of the said disease have higher chances of being diagnosed with this syndrome. We have mentioned them below for your reference and understanding of the same:
- Cancer, specially of the stomach, lungs and pancreas
- Crohn’s disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Chronic renal failure
- Cystic fibrosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
The interaction of many different factors lead to Cachexia causes which have been identified by health experts. We have discussed below for your understanding some of these causes in details:
- An individual with abnormal levels of a certain substance in their body
- Conditions that cause these substances to reach an abnormal level in the body
- The reaction that the body has to the abnormal levels of these substances
- Pathways such as prevention of muscle growth, inflammation, an increase in the breakdown of muscles and increased metabolism.
These are some common causes that are known to cause this condition.
How is Cachexia diagnosed?
For Cachexia diagnosis, a doctor will need to perform a certain number of different tests as there is no one test to understand what is causing this to happen. As mentioned, the doctor may then have to conduct multiple tests to get to the root cause of the problem. Some of these tests include:
- A doctor will need to understand the complete medical history of an individual and understand if there are any underlying medical chronic conditions that are causing this to happen.
- A doctor will examine the symptoms of the individual and check if there is any rapid loss in weight and then calculate the fat-free muscle index.
An understanding of the above will help.
How is Cachexia treated?
There is no specific way to reverse this syndrome or for Cachexia treatment. The treatment only aims at improving the symptoms and subsequently the quality of life of the individual. We have mentioned below for you the current therapy that doctors’ advice for this:
- Changes in diet and consumption of nutritional supplements
- Medication that decreases inflammation
- Consumption of certain appetite stimulants
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How can Cachexia be prevented?
Prevention of cachexia can be done by preventing the underlying medical conditions that causes it to happen in the first place. These can be done easily at home along with the help of some medicines as advised by the doctor. Some of these have been mentioned below for your understanding and consideration:
- Having an active lifestyle with a good diet that is rich in nutrition
- Taking nutrition supplements to ensure that the immunity system is strong and you are not at a risk of catching certain diseases or infections
- Making exercise a part of life