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Appetite - increased

Hyperphagia; Increased appetite; Hunger; Excessive hunger; Polyphagia

Increased appetite means you have an excess desire for food.

Considerations

An increased appetite can be a symptom of different diseases. For example, it may be due to a mental condition or a problem with the endocrine gland.

An increased appetite can come and go (intermittent), or it can last for long periods of time (persistent). This will depend 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 a large amount before feeling full.

Causes

Causes may include:

Home Care

Emotional support is recommended. Counseling may be needed in some cases.

If a medicine is causing increased appetite and weight gain, your health care provider may decrease your dose or have you try another drug. Do not stop taking your medicine without talking to your provider.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider if:

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

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will do a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history. You also may have a psychological evaluation.

Questions may include:

  • What are your typical eating habits?
  • Have you begun dieting or do you have concerns about your weight?
  • What medicines are you taking and have you recently changed the dose or started new ones? Do you use any illicit drugs?
  • Do you get hungry during sleep? Is your hunger related to your menstrual cycle?
  • Have you noticed any other symptoms such as anxiety, palpitations, increased thirst, vomiting, frequent urination, or unintentional weight gain?

References

Clemmons DR, Neiman LK. Approach to the patient with endocrine disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 221.

Jensen MD. Obesity. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 220.

Katzman DK, Kearney SA, Becker AE. Feeding and eating disorders. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 9.

    • Lower digestive anatomy

      Lower digestive anatomy - illustration

      Food passes from the stomach into the small intestine. In the small intestine all nutrient absorption occurs. Whatever has not been absorbed by the small intestine passes into the colon. In the colon most of the water is absorbed from the food residue. The residue is then eliminated from the body as feces.

      Lower digestive anatomy

      illustration

    • Hunger center in brain

      Hunger center in brain - illustration

      It takes time for the body to recognize that you have eaten and for the feeling of hunger to go away. Eating too quickly may cause you to eat more food over the same period of time as eating slowing and allowing your body to feel "full".

      Hunger center in brain

      illustration

      • Lower digestive anatomy

        Lower digestive anatomy - illustration

        Food passes from the stomach into the small intestine. In the small intestine all nutrient absorption occurs. Whatever has not been absorbed by the small intestine passes into the colon. In the colon most of the water is absorbed from the food residue. The residue is then eliminated from the body as feces.

        Lower digestive anatomy

        illustration

      • Hunger center in brain

        Hunger center in brain - illustration

        It takes time for the body to recognize that you have eaten and for the feeling of hunger to go away. Eating too quickly may cause you to eat more food over the same period of time as eating slowing and allowing your body to feel "full".

        Hunger center in brain

        illustration

      Review Date: 12/10/2016

      Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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