Q: Causes of sudden, persistent weight gain?

By Elizabeth Smoots, MD, FAAFP

A: Fluid retention is the most common cause of sudden weight gain. It usually comes as quickly as it goes. Persistent fluid retention can signal heart, liver or kidney disease.

Other conditions that may quickly pile on the pounds: Diabetes and low thyroid function are often associated with weight gain, usually along with muscle weakness and fatigue. People with Cushing’s syndrome make too much cortisol, resulting in fatty deposits in the face, neck, trunk and abdomen. Pregnancy may be a possibility in premenopausal women.

Medications linked to added weight: Certain hormone treatments, birth control pills or corticosteroids have weight gain as a side effect. The same for beta blockers taken for high blood pressure, or tamoxifen used for breast cancer. Other drugs associated with weight gain include antidepressants, antipsychotics, seizure drugs, and insulin or sulfonylureas for diabetes. See your health care provider if weight gain persists, no matter if it’s sudden or gradual.

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