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Evaluation of weight loss in infants over six months of age, children, and adolescents

Derya Caglar, MD
Section Editor
George A Woodward, MD
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


This topic will discuss the approach to weight loss in the older infant and adolescent. Weight loss in young infants is discussed separately. (See "Evaluation of weight loss in infants six months of age and younger".)


There are many causes of weight loss throughout childhood. Dehydration, infection (especially viral gastroenteritis), malnutrition, and child neglect are common causes in older infants and young children. Depression, eating disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, malignancy, and malabsorption (eg, lactose intolerance, celiac disease) are more frequent in school-age children and adolescents. Weight loss and slow weight gain can have serious long term consequences extending into adulthood [1]. Assessments of the degree and acuity of the weight loss along with specific historical and physical findings should guide the evaluation of these patients.


Weight loss may be classified as intentional or unintentional:

Acute or progressive unintentional weight loss often indicates a serious medical illness that requires evaluation and treatment.

Intentional weight loss in overweight or obese individuals is benign in most instances but must be followed closely in the pediatric patient to insure the patient has appropriate growth. The frequency of intentional loss in association with altered body image or other psychiatric illness (eg, anorexia nervosa) increases with advancing age, peaking in adolescence and early adulthood.

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Mar 23, 2017.
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