What is Kwashiorkor and Its Symptoms?

What is Kwashiorkor and Its Symptoms?


We know by now that we need to eat the right foods, need to work out, and do stuff that is healthy for us. Because maintaining good health does not happen by accident, it requires work and smart lifestyle choices. But sometimes when we wake up at 6 am to hit the gym before work or shunning the donuts in breakfast, it’s easy to lose sight of for what are we doing all these. So here are some top articles choices that can keep you motivated to lead a healthy lifestyle and keep diseases at bay.

What is Kwashiorkor and Its Symptoms?

Kwashiorkor is one of the most common nutritional disorders (protein energy malnutrition) that affect poor developing countries. The disease occurs in individuals (mostly children) who do not get adequate protein in diet. Each and every cell in a living organism have protein in it and humans cannot produce protein and must be consumed in diet. Protein is also required for cell growth/multiplication and repair. Hence lack of adequate protein in diet leads to nutritional deficiency or protein energy malnutrition, kwashiorkor, although the individual may be getting adequate calories. Typically children are affected by kwashiorkor more often than adults. Kwashiorkor results from deficiency of protein only (calorie intake is usually adequate) is different from more severe protein energy malnutrition marasmus, where there is calorie as well as protein deficiency in marasmus.

If not adequately treated, kwashiorkor may cause death from shock and coma. In fact, the prognosis of kwashiorkor is worse than marasmus. Prompt and adequate treatment measure is the only way for better prognosis of kwashiorkor.

Symptoms of kwashiorkor:

Symptoms of kwashiorkor depends on duration and scale of protein deficiency. The longer the duration of protein deficiency, the severe is the disease and bad prognosis. Initial symptoms of kwashiorkor include fatigue and irritability. As protein deficiency continues new symptoms develop, such as stunted growth, weight loss, muscle wasting, generalized swelling, skin changes, enlargement of the liver and abdomen. Unlike marasmus the patient do not look emaciated. The common symptoms of kwashiorkor are:

  • Abdominal distention and bloating
  • Generalized edema or swelling
  • Hepatomegaly or enlargement of liver due to fatty liver
  • Diarrhea
  • Frequent incidence of infection due to weak immune system
  • Muscle wasting
  • Fatigue and generalized weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in hair (hair becomes brittle and reddish in color) and nail (soft, thin and ridged nails)
  • Skin changes, such as loss of skin pigment, appearance of red or purple patches in skin, peeling, and cracking and skin sloughing. Sores develops in various parts of skin
  • Growth retardation or slowing of growth
  • Weight loss
  • There is no emaciated appearance in kwashiorkor patients, unlike marasmus patients.

The following symptoms indicate serious and life-threatening condition and need careful management.

  • Breathing problems such as slowness of breath, shortness of breath, shallow and labored breathing
  • Bluish coloration of fingers and/or lips.
  • Chest pain or chest discomfort
  • Palpitation or rapid pulse rate
  • High fever
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Change in level of alertness or consciousness (unresponsiveness or passing out)
  • Children not producing enough urine
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