Marasmus: what it is, signs and symptoms and how treatment is done

Marasmus is one of the types of protein-energy malnutrition characterized by great weight loss and muscle and widespread fat loss, which can negatively influence growth.

This type of malnutrition is characterized by the primary deficiency of carbohydrates and fat, which forces the body to consume proteins to generate energy, which leads to weight and muscle loss, thus characterizing the general malnutrition. See what are the dangers of malnutrition.

Protein-energy malnutrition is common in children between 6 and 24 months of age who live in underdeveloped countries where food is scarce. In addition to the socioeconomic factor, marasmus can be influenced by early weaning, inadequate food intake and poor health conditions.

Signs and symptoms of marasmus

Children with marasmus present signs and symptoms characteristic of this type of malnutrition, such as:

  • Absence of subcutaneous fat;
  • Generalized muscle loss, allowing the visualization of bones, for example;
  • Narrow hip in relation to the chest;
  • Change in growth;
  • Weight well below the age recommended;
  • Weakness;
  • Tiredness;
  • Dizziness;
  • Constant hunger;
  • Diarrhea and vomiting;
  • Increased concentration of cortisol, which makes the child moody.

The diagnosis of marasmus is made through the evaluation of clinical signs and symptoms, in addition, laboratory tests and others that allow confirmation of the diagnosis, such as BMI, measurement of the perimeter of the head and arm and verification of skin folds, can be requested.

What is the difference between marasmus and Kwashiorkor?

Like marasmus, kwashiorkor is a type of protein-energy malnutrition, however it is characterized by extreme protein deficiency that leads to symptoms such as edema, dry skin, hair loss, growth retardation, abdominal bloating and hepatomegaly, ie , enlarged liver.

How the treatment is done

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the treatment of malnutrition, including marasmus, is done in stages with the aim of gradually increasing the amount of calories ingested to prevent intestinal changes, for example:

  1. Stabilization, in which food is introduced gradually in order to reverse metabolic changes;
  2. Rehabilitation, in which the child is already more stable and, therefore, the feeding is intensified so that there is weight recovery and growth stimulation;
  3. Follow-up, in which the child is periodically monitored in order to prevent relapse and ensure continuity of treatment.

In addition, it is important to guide the parent or guardian of the child about how the treatment is done and how the child should be fed, in addition to indicating the signs of a possible relapse, for example. Learn more about malnutrition and how treatment is done.