Polyphagia

Polyphagia is a highly complicated condition of the appetite that can either be intermittent or persistent and even causes the death of many individuals. Know all about this unusual ailment, including its possible causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment procedures.

Polyphagia Definition

The condition is usually a manifestation of an abnormal disorder marked by an increased appetite. It commonly occurs in those individuals who have greater than normal nutritional requirements. The medical term originates from a Greek word “Polifai” where “poli” means many and “fai” refers to food. It is also known as “Hyperphagia”.

Polyphagia Symptoms

Individuals affected with this disorder develop an unusual feeling of excessive hunger that results in recurring episodes of binge eating. Hunger is usually a normal discomforting sensation that arises due to a prolonged lack of food, which usually disappears after consumption of food. However, patients with this type of eating disorder constantly experience a strong desire to eat without having a physiological need. Sufferers are unable to regularize their food intake despite the sudden gain in weight. This abnormal ailment causes patients to indulge in unrestrained eating without engaging in any weight loss programs. Patients often go through mood swings and frequently appear distressed due to the regular bouts of excessive eating.

Polyphagia Causes

The disorder is typically a characteristic symptom in patients with type 1 diabetes, in which decreased insulin production results in elevated blood glucose levels. The kidneys gradually become overloaded with excessive glucose that is expelled from the body in the form of increased urine production. This condition is called polyuria and symbolizes another prominent medical sign of type 1 diabetes. The frequent production of large volumes of glucose-rich urine causes severe calorie deficiency, which in turn leads to excessive intake of food. Sugar spillage through the kidneys often results in Polydipsia – a condition characterized by excessive thirst that lasts for an extensive period of time. This condition is equally detrimental to patients as it is marked by consumption of large quantities of fluids. The other underlying maladies of the condition may include:

Bulimia Nervosa

The disorder involves uncontrolled episodes of overeating, followed by a host of inappropriate weight loss techniques like:

  • Self-induced purging or vomiting
  • Abuse of laxatives, enemas or diuretics
  • Excessive exercise
  • Fasting

The sudden aversion to weight gain is most often related to fear of stomach pain or a feeling of guilt after binging.

Grave’s disease

In this autoimmune condition, an overactive thyroid produces increased amount of hormones, resulting in a serious hormonal imbalance called hyperthyroidism. The abnormal production of thyroid autoantibodies causes several problems, including increased appetite.

Hyperadrenalism

The adrenal glands, which are responsible for releasing hormones in response to stress, can sometimes turn overactive through synthesis of corticosteroids. The raised levels of adrenal hormones in the body can trigger a sensation of hunger at unusual occasions.

Premenstrual syndrome

A set of various emotional, physical, psychological, and mood disturbances could often be noticed in many women few weeks before the start of menstrual cycle. The most commonly observed physical sign of the syndrome is change of appetite with overeating or food cravings.

Hypoglycemia

It is an abnormally low amount of glucose in the blood. A few diabetic patients who are on medications or insulin could undergo an abrupt decrease in blood glucose. The intense hunger experienced by the patients may cause a sense of urgency to eat in order to resolve symptoms like weakness and palpitation.

Anxiety

Individuals who exhibit an overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear to a perceived threat or danger may often develop a series of biochemical modifications in the body. Excessive consumption of food is one of the most common clinical features of nervousness.

Drugs

Some medicines like corticosteroids, cyproheptadine, and tricyclic antidepressants can easily induce an increased appetite.

Prader-Willi Syndrome

It is a complex genetic condition that affects several parts of the body. During infancy, affected individuals display weak muscle tone, feeding problems and poor growth. Insatiable appetite develops in the beginning of childhood, which leads to chronic overeating and subsequent obesity.

Kleine-Levin syndrome

The neurological condition is characterized by recurrent as well as long episodes of excessive sleeping and eating. The affected patients sleep for most of the time and wake only to eat. It is even associated with behavioral or cognitive disturbances.

Bardet Biedl Syndrome

The genetic disorder is represented by a wide spectrum of symptoms that includes obesity, vision loss, kidney failure and increased appetite.

Polyphagia in Dogs

Veterinary specialists have observed the condition in a large number of dogs. It can either be a consequence of a disorder or a psychological problem. Overfeeding as well as old age can sometimes lead to an increased appetite in canines.

Polyphagia Diagnosis

The condition usually comes to the attention of health-care practitioners when the other symptoms of the underlying illness begin to surface. The complete medical and family health information is properly gathered to correctly diagnose the disorder. Apart from a thorough physical examination, additional tests and exams are conducted to evaluate the health state of the affected patients. Some of these include:

Blood test

It is a standard test used for detecting the presence of high blood glucose levels. Patients affected by Hyperthyroidism are diagnosed with an elevated level of thyroid hormones in their blood. A low count of glucose signifies Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Urinalysis

It is simply an analysis of a urine sample, and encompasses a host of physical, chemical and microscopic tests. The test is an excellent screening tool for diabetic patients who specifically suffer from Polydipsia and Polyuria.

Antibody test

The technique is widely used to measure the amount of thyroid antibodies in the blood in patients with Grave disease.

Polyphagia Treatment

The treatment of the condition is mainly aimed at eradicating its cause. Diabetic patients must attempt to minimize any elevation of blood sugar without lowering the glucose to an abnormal level. A diabetic diet comprising of food low in fat, cholesterol and sugars coupled with adequate exercise can control the high blood glucose levels. Insulin injections are given in more serious cases. Antithyroid medicines are administered to individuals with Grave disease. Radioactive iodine therapy can destroy the thyroid cells in order to produce less amount of thyroid hormone. Surgical excision of the thyroid can be performed provided the gland is replaced with another thyroid-producing source. The medicines responsible for causing the condition should be immediately discontinued to prevent any further complications. Growth hormone treatment as approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could give better results in the case of Prader-Willi syndrome. Individuals suffering from Kleine-Levin syndrome can be orally administered with stimulants such as amphetamines, methylphenidate and modafinil to treat sleepiness.

Diabetic patients are usually at an increased risk of developing Polyphagia and must take stringent measures to curb the excess levels of glucose in the body. Excessive ingestion of food can lead to obesity, the management of which is extremely annoying and challenging. It is advisable to quickly get in touch with a professional healthcare provider when you experience a strong urge to eat at erratic periods.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphagia

http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/polyphagia

http://www.medicinenet.com/increased_appetite/symptoms.htm

http://www.petplace.com/dogs/polyphagia-in-dogs/page1.aspx

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