What are the Causes and Symptoms of Marasmus?

Marasmus is a severe form of malnutrition characterized by significant and chronic nutrient deficiency, particularly in terms of calories and protein. It primarily affects infants and young children, although it can occur in people of all ages. Marasmus is often associated with a range of causes and a specific set of symptoms. Here are the common causes and symptoms of marasmus:

Causes of Marasmus:

  • Inadequate Nutrition: The primary cause of marasmus is a chronic and severe deficiency of calories and protein in the diet. This can result from poverty, lack of access to proper nutrition, or food scarcity.
  • Poor Breastfeeding Practices: Infants who are not breastfed properly, or whose mothers are undernourished, may be at higher risk for marasmus.
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders: Conditions that affect nutrient absorption in the gastrointestinal tract, such as celiac disease or severe diarrhea, can contribute to malnutrition and marasmus.
  • Infections: Repeated and severe infections, such as chronic diarrhea or respiratory infections, can increase nutrient requirements and contribute to malnutrition.
  • Poverty and Socioeconomic Factors: Poverty and lack of access to clean water, sanitation, and healthcare are underlying factors that can lead to marasmus.

Common Symptoms of Marasmus:

  • Severe Weight Loss: Marasmus results in severe and rapid weight loss, often causing the individual to appear emaciated and extremely underweight.
  • Muscle Wasting: The body breaks down muscle tissue to provide energy, leading to muscle wasting and weakness.
  • Sunken Appearance: Facial features, such as sunken eyes and cheeks, are characteristic of marasmus.
  • Lethargy and Weakness: Affected individuals become increasingly lethargic, weak, and apathetic due to the lack of energy.
  • Growth Stunting: Children with marasmus may exhibit growth stunting, which can result in delayed physical and cognitive development.
  • Loss of Subcutaneous Fat: There is a noticeable loss of subcutaneous fat, making the skin appear loose and wrinkled.
  • Brittle Hair and Nails: Hair and nails may become brittle and easily break.
  • Chronic Diarrhea: In some cases, chronic diarrhea can be a symptom of marasmus due to gastrointestinal issues.
  • Dehydration: Dehydration is common in individuals with marasmus due to fluid loss from diarrhea and other factors.

Marasmus is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical intervention. Treatment typically involves nutritional rehabilitation, including the gradual introduction of energy-rich foods, hydration, and management of underlying infections or medical issues. The recovery process should be closely monitored by healthcare professionals to ensure a gradual and safe return to health. If left untreated, marasmus can lead to severe complications and even death.

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