All About Cachexia

Cachexia is a “wasting” disorder that causes extreme weight loss and muscle atrophy and can include loss of body fat. This disorder affects people who are in the late stages of incurable diseases like cancer, HIV/AIDS, COPD, kidney disease, and congestive heart failure.

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More Than Weight Loss

The difference between cachexia and other types of weight loss is that cachexia is involuntary. Patients who develop this disease don’t lose weight because they’re trying to get fit with diet or exercise. They lose the weight because they eat less due to different medical reasons. At the same time, the patients metabolism also changes, which causes their body to break down too much muscle. Both inflammation and substances created by tumors can affect appetite and cause the body to burn calories more quickly than usual.

Categories of Cachexia

There are three main categories of the disease. They vary by severity of the symptoms.

Precachexia

This is when a patient loses up to 5 percent of their body weight without having any known illnesses. Other symptoms present include loss of appetite, change in metabolism and inflammation around the body.

General Cachexia

This is when a patient loses more that 5 percent of their body weight in a year or less without trying. Diagnosis is given if no other illnesses are identified. At this stage, patients also experience fatigue and loss of muscle strength.

Refractory Cachexia

This diagnosis is coupled with cancer and is present in patients who aren’t responding to cancer treatment.

Associated Conditions

Around three-fourths of patients who have late stage cancer also have cachexia. Tumor cells release substances that reduce appetite. Cancer and its treatments can also cause severe nausea or damage the digestive tract, making it hard to eat and absorb nutrients. As the body gets fewer nutrients, it burns fat and muscle. Cancer cells use what limited nutrients are left to help them survive and multiply.

Cachexia also happens in the later stages of congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, cystic fibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of Cachexia

Patients with cachexia aren’t just losing weight, they’re losing muscle mass, which is dangerous. Along with losing at least 5% of your body weight within a year, at least three of these symptoms must be present:

  • reduced muscle strength
  • fatigue
  • appetite loss
  • anorexia
  • low BMI
  • high levels of inflammation
  • anemia
  • low levels of protein

Medical Marijuana and Cachexia

This disease cannot be cured but medical marijuana eases symptoms to give patients a better quality of life. Marijuana helps slow down denigration of the muscles, helps improve the quality of sleep and helps stimulate the patients appetite,

Marijuana strains that help with associated muscle problems and loss of appetite include:

  • Deep Purple: This indica-dominant strain relieves anxiety and promotes a good night’s sleep to ward of fatigue the following day.
  • Double Stuffed Sorbet: This hybrid strain is 50/50, combining the best qualities of both. It relaxes and uplifts you along with loosening the muscles and encouraging food consumption.
  • Haze Wreck: This sativa strain helps with stress relief and the depression that comes along with chronic illness. It also promotes a healthy appetite and gives an ample amount of energy.

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