Health Information

Appetite - increased

Definition

Increased appetite means you have an excess desire for food.

Alternative Names

Hyperphagia; Increased appetite; Hunger; Excessive hunger; Polyphagia

Considerations

An increased appetite can be a symptom of different diseases. For example, it may be due to certain mental conditions and endocrine gland disorders.

An increased appetite can come and go (intermittent), or it can last for long periods of time (persistent), depending on the cause. It does not always result in weight gain.

The terms "hyperphagia" and "polyphagia" refer to someone who is focused only on eating, or who eats excessively before feeling full.

Causes

Causes of increased appetite include:

Home Care

Emotional support, and in some cases counseling, are recommended.

If a medication is causing increased appetite and weight gain, your health care provider may decrease your dosage or recommend a different drug. Never stop taking your medication without first talking to your health care provider.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if:

  • You have an unexplained, persistent increase in appetite
  • You have other unexplained symptoms

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam. During the physical exam, the health care provider will probably weigh you. You also may have a psychological evaluation.

The doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, with emphasis on your eating habits. Questions may include:

  • Eating habits
    • Have you changed your eating habits?
    • Have you begun dieting?
    • Do you have concerns about your weight?
    • What do you eat in a typical day?
    • How much do you eat?
  • Medication
    • What medications are you taking?
    • Are you taking any new medications, or have you changed the dose of your medications?
    • Do you use any illicit drugs? If so, which ones?
  • Time pattern
    • Does the hunger occur during the sleep period?
    • Does the hunger seem to occur in a pattern related to your menstrual cycle?
  • Other
    • What other symptoms are you having at the same time?
    • Have you noticed an increase in anxiety?
    • Do you frequently urinate?
    • Do you have an increased heart rate?
    • Do you have palpitations?
    • Do you feel more thirsty?
    • Have you had an unintentional weight gain?
    • Do you experience intentional or unintentional vomiting?

Tests that may be done include:

References

Jensen MD. Obesity. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 239.

Saper CB. Autonomic disorders and their management. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 445.

Becker AE, Baker CW. Eating disorders. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010:chap 8.


Review Date: 10/30/2010
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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