Sudden weight gain – symptoms and causes

Most people experience weight fluctuations and often gain weight over time. However, if a person gains weight in a very rapid manner for no apparent reason, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Causes of weight gain with no relation to health condition

These causes have everything to do with lifestyle, diet and some physical rhythms:

  • eating more than usual
  • menstrual cycle
  • perimenopause and menopause
  • aging processes
  • decrease in physically activity
  • water retention due to dehydration or excess salt consumption
  • frequent stress, depression, or anxiety, working under pressure
  • lack of sleep

Anyone who notices rapid and unexplained weight gain that is not due to one of the above-listed causes or that affects their quality of life should see a doctor.

In this article, we will pay attention 10 possible causes of rapid weight gain and how to deal with them.


Some medicine can cause people to gain weight quickly. According to the Obesity Coalition, some medications can cause people to gain up to several pounds a month as a side effect.

The following are medical conditions that can make people gain weight rapidly if they take corresponding drugs:

  • seizures
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • depression and mental health problems

Consult your doctor about making changes to your medication schedule if you think your drug is causing weight gain. However, never quit taking or change your medication on your own. You should realise that some people go through weight gain after starting medication simply because they feel better, which in effect leads to an improved appetite. Also, mental problems themselves can cause weight changes.
It is critical not to stop taking medicine without first consulting your doctor.


Numerous studies have indicated that lack of sleep might lead to weight gain. Changes in sleep cycles can affect eating habits and mood, being a trigger for people to overeat.

According to some studies, sleep-deprived people ate more carbohydrates than needed to meet their energy needs, which led to weight gain. Participants in the same study also took in more calories in total, especially while having dinner.

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Giving up smoking

Some people gain weight first when they quit smoking tobacco products. Experts believe this is the case because nicotine suppresses appetite whereas withdrawal symptoms can include stress, which can lead to overeating.

Studies have shown that 1 kilogram is the average weight gain during the first month after quitting smoking and mostly seems to take palce within the first 3 months after stopping. From then on the rate is decreasing.

It needs to be mentioned, though, that changes in weight after quitting smoking can vary from person to person. The same study found that 16 percent of participants actually lost weight within the first year after, while 13 percent gained more than 4 kilograms

Polycystic ovary syndrome

People with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may find that they easily gain weight near their midsection. Polycystic ovary syndrome leads to abnormally high levels of male sex hormones.

Typical symptoms of PCOS include:

  • irregular periods
  • excess hair on the back, chest or abdomen
  • thinning hair or hair loss
  • acne
  • dark areas of skin around the armpits, chest or neck

Despite the fact that there is no cure for PCOS, your doctor might advise lifestyle changes, such as exercising more and switching to a healthier diet to reduce the symptoms. Hormone medications is another way to contain PCOS.

Heart Failure

Rapid weight gain or swelling in certain areas of the body might be the result of fluid retention and may be a sign of heart failure.

According to the American Heart Association, weight gain of more than two to three pounds (lb) in 24 hours or five pounds per week might indicate heart failure. However, it is worth noting that a person’s weight usually varies by a few pounds during the day. If their weight returns to normal and they have no extra symptoms whatsoever, the temporary increase may be a result of normal bloating and fluid retention.

If blood flows slowly to and from the heart, it affects the function of other major organs in the body. As a result, fluid accumulates in the tissues, causing weight gain and swelling. People may experience weight gain with edema in abdominal area, ankles and feet. Other signs and symptoms of heart failure include:

  • fluid collection inside the lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • frequent coughing
  • a feeling of breath shortage when resting
  • dizziness or mental confusion
  • lack of appetite
  • problems with sleeping or lying down
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If people experience any of these symptoms together with quick weight gain or unexplained swelling, they are advised to seek medical consultation.

Kidney problems

Sudden weight gain or swelling in the body can also be a symptom of kidney disease, such as kidney failure or nephrotic syndrome, which is the same as kidney damage.

If the kidneys are not operating properly, the body can retain fluid, resulting in weight gain. Damaged kidneys are unable to get rid of waste products and fluids from the body in proper way, so they accumulate in the tissues. Swelling caused by kidney problems usually affects the legs, ankles, or feet.

Other symptoms that may imply a kidney problem include fatigue, problems with urinating, frothy urine, itching, lack of appetite, pain in joints, frequent headaches, lack of concentration.


If people put on weight rapidly and the abdomen looks enlarged, this may imply cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis is a condition in which scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver, and this can result inan accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. This abnormal accumulation of fluid is called ascites. Other symptoms of cirrhosis include swollen ankles, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain.
If people are already in the process of treatment for ascites, they are advised to see their doctor if they put on more than 2 pounds per day for 3 days in a row.

Thyroid disorder

Thyroid dysfunction that is scientifically referred to as hypothyroidism, can slow metabolism, which in effect can lead to weight gain. Thyroid disorders can also be the cause of fluid retention because of the effects of hypothyroidism on the kidneys. Other possible symptoms of hypothyroidism might include:

  • constant fatigue
  • feeling cold
  • dry skin or hair
  • brittle nails
  • stiff joints and aching muscles
  • constipation
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Cushing’s syndrome

Cushing’s syndrome is a very rare disorder and is triggered by high levels of the hormone cortisol. It might evolve as a side effect of lasting steroid treatment or as a consequence of having a tumor.

Weight gain is a common accompanying symptom, especially on the chest, face, and abdomen. Depending on the cause, treatment usually includes either stopping of steroid therapy or surgery to remove the tumor.

Ovarian cancer

Unexpected and unexplained weight gain as well as bloating may be signs of ovarian cancer. Other common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • abdominal or pelvic pain
  • difficulty sleeping
  • frequent or acute need to urinate
  • loss of appetite or rapid feelings of fullness
  • abnormal menstrual cycle
  • indigestion

Ovarian cancer frequently develops to late stages without being identified, so anyone with any of the above-listed symptoms is strongly advised to see a doctor. Detecting cancer at an earlier stage usually leads to more optimistic procpects.

Diabetes treatment

Weight gain is a common side effect for people who regularly take insulin as part of managing their diabetes. Insulin helps in controlling blood sugar levels. Some people who have had diabetes for long might eat more than normal to prevent low blood sugar, also referred to as “hypo” or hypoglycemia. Regular snacking sessions may mean that you are getting excess calories. This can cause overall weight gain in the long run.

Steroid treatment

Steroids, also referred to as corticosteroids, are taken to cure a number of conditions, including asthma and arthritis. Long-term use of corticosteroid pills may boost appetite in some people, which in effect will result in weight gain.

Be cautious about what you eat during the period of taking steroids as it will help prevent you from eating in excess. If you are concerned about weight gain, consult your therapist on the ways to manage your weight. You are not advised to stop steroid treatment without talking to your therapist first.

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