|Classification and external resources|
Child suffering with Marasmus in India
Marasmus is a form of severe malnutrition characterized by energy deficiency. A child with marasmus looks emaciated. Body weight is reduced to less than 60% of the normal (expected) body weight for the age. Marasmus occurrence increases prior to age 1, whereas kwashiorkor occurrence increases after 18 months. It can be distinguished from kwashiorkor in that kwashiorkor is protein deficiency with adequate energy intake whereas marasmus is inadequate energy intake in all forms, including protein. Protein wasting in kwashiorkor may lead to edema.
The prognosis is better than it is for kwashiorkor but half of severely malnourished children die due to unavailability of adequate treatment.
The word “marasmus” comes from the Greek μαρασμός marasmos ("decay").
Signs and symptoms
The malnutrition associated with marasmus leads to extensive tissue and muscle wasting, as well as variable edema. Other common characteristics include dry skin, loose skin folds hanging over the buttocks (glutei) and armpit (axillae), etc. There is also drastic loss of adipose tissue (body fat) from normal areas of fat deposits like buttocks and thighs. The afflicted are often fretful, irritable, and voraciously hungry.
Marasmus is caused by a severe deficiency of nearly all nutrients, especially protein and carbohydrates.
It is necessary to treat not only the causes but also the complications of the disorder, including infections, dehydration, and circulation disorders, which are frequently lethal and lead to high mortality if ignored.
Ultimately, marasmus can progress to the point of no return when the body's ability for protein synthesis is lost. At this point, attempts to correct the disorder by giving food or protein are futile.
- Appleton & Vanbergen, Metabolism and Nutrition, Medicine Crash Course 4th ed. Moseby (London: 2013) p.130
- Badaloo AV, Forrester T, Reid M, Jahoor F (June 2006). "Lipid kinetic differences between children with kwashiorkor and those with marasmus". Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 83 (6): 1283–8. PMID 16762938.
- "Mortality and Burden of Disease Estimates for WHO Member States in 2002" (xls). World Health Organization. 2002.