How Long Can You Live With Cachexia?

Medically Reviewed on 11/23/2021
Progressive cachexia is often a sign of a poor prognosis and a relatively shorter survival time.

Cachexia is a “wasting” disorder that causes immense levels of weight reduction and muscle wasting, which can include loss of fat.

This condition influences people who are in the late phases of different serious illnesses, such as:

The loss of weight in cachexia is involuntary or without conscious efforts.

The survival rate of cachexia can vary depending on the cause. Progressive cachexia is often a sign of poor prognosis and a relatively shorter survival time. The amount and rate of weight loss and survival time are directly related to the survival time of the underlying condition in people with HIV, cancer, and more.

3 categories of cachexia

The 3 categories of cachexia include:

  1. Pre-cachexia: Characterized by loss of less than five percent of your body weight while having a known sickness or illness, and is accompanied by a disturbance in appetite and changes in metabolism.
  2. Cachexia: The reduction of more than five percent of your body weight. A few other different characteristics include loss of muscle strength, reduced appetite, inflammation, and fatigue.
  3. Refractory cachexia: Applies to people with cancer with characteristics that include weight reduction, muscle loss, and an inability to respond to cancer treatment.

What causes cachexia?

Cachexia is a complicated disorder and its exact causes might change depending on a person's physiology and underlying illness related to it.

However, the below-mentioned variables stay consistent across all diagnoses:

  • Increased metabolic rate and energy expenditure
  • Reduced nutrient intake or availability
  • Increased breakdown of muscle
  • Prevention of muscle growth

What are the symptoms of cachexia?

The main symptom of cachexia is muscle and fat loss that make you look malnourished.

Some other symptoms that indicate cachexia include:

  • Weakness, which makes it difficult for your everyday activities
  • Decreased muscle strength and muscle wasting
  • Appetite loss
  • Low levels of the albumin protein in the blood
  • Anemia
  • Increased levels of inflammation in the body
  • Low fat-free mass index
  • Edema (swelling) because low protein levels in the blood cause fluids to stay in body tissues

What are the risk factors associated with cachexia?

Cachexia usually occurs in the end phases of severe conditions.

It is best to talk to your doctor about ways to prevent the development of cachexia and how it could be managed if it develops along with one of the following conditions:

How is cachexia treated?

There is no set up single treatment plan or medication that can cure cachexia because of the many elements that add to its cause. The best way is to consolidate several types of therapies because changing your eating routine alone won't work.

You may likewise need to consider the following:

  • Focus on social parts of eating: Emphasizing the social significance of eating rather than the measure of food might help an individual reposition their emotion and mental relationship to eating.
  • Use appetite stimulants: Your doctor may prescribe medications to increase your appetite. It is important to remember that eating more may not stop muscle wasting or prevent the development of symptoms.
  • Eat small but frequent meals: If your body can tolerate it, eat high-calorie meals in small but frequent portions throughout the day. Pick drinks with nutritional supplements to help increase your caloric intake.
  • Encourage light exercise: As long as your body can tolerate it, exercise may help build muscle mass. However, there is no proof with regards to the effectiveness of exercise as an action against cachexia.


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Medically Reviewed on 11/23/2021
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