• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Marasmus: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

A number of nutritional deficiency syndromes has been commonly included under the generic term PEM or protein energy malnutrition. PEM has been in use as it has not so far been possible to characterise the individual syndromes and give separate names to each of them. The meaning of the hyphenated compound word `protein-energy malnutrition’ is not clear and the term is inaccurate from the aetiological point of view. Continued use of the term prevents the introduction of clear syndromic names, aetiological and clinical characterisation and a complete classification of the various syndromes.

PEl is a multifactońal disease and it is not possible to isolate the dietary factor from other factors including infections. The causal dietary deficiency is commonly one of protein malnutrition with energy undernutńtion, but the energy intake may be adequate or excessive (absolutely or relatively in relation to body weight or age) in some areas. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are also commonly associated.

Causes of marasmus

marasmus causes

Child drinking water


While concluding the controversial subject of the type of dietary deficiency leading to kwashiorkor or marasmus, it is not suggested that the pioneer workers in this field made inaccurate observations. It appears, however, that generalisations of regional observations or animal experimental data may too frequently lead to such seemingly controversial conclusions as `kwashiorkor is protein deficiency’, `excess carbohydrates cause kwashiorkor‘, `kwashiorkor is protein and energy deficiency’, `marasmus is energy deficiency’, `marasmus is protein deficiency as well.

  1. Less intake of calories and essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals etc.

  2. Various childhood related infections and diseases that promote malnutrition and poor health

  3. Drinking dirty water

  4. Living in unclean situations

  5. Having facial defects that hamper feeding

What are the risk factors for marasmus?

marasmus symptoms

women eating food


Risk factors which increase the probability of a person getting marasmus are:

  1. Unhygienic water

  2. Lack of food

  3. Deficiency of vitamins and minerals

  4. Poor surroundings

Common symptoms of marasmus

symptoms of marasmus

child looking into camera


Below listed are some common symptoms of marasmus:

  1. Improper growth and development

  2. Stool irregularity

  3. Dehydrated skin

  4. Tiredness

  5. Fat and tissue loss from the body

  6. Poor growth and development

  7. Underweight

How is marasmus diagnosed?

treatment

doctor diagnosis paper


The doctor can easily diagnose this disease. Height, weight, BMI can be measured up. If they are below the required limit then marasmus can be diagnosed.

The child so affected will be low on energy and feel tired. Blood tests can also be done to detect any infections.

What are the potential complications of marasmus?

Marasmus disease

a child


  1. Stunted growth issues

  2. Joints are not properly formed

  3. Tiredness

  4. Fatigue

  5. Organs not working properly

  6. Eye problems

How is marasmus treated?

Marasmus diagnosis and treatment

diet on table


  1. A diet rich in protein and fat should be given to children suffering from marasmus. The lack of calories should be compensated.

  2. Care should be taken about dehydration. Proper rehydration should be given.

  3. If infections are commonly encountered, then proper treatment with antibiotics should be given. If any other disease or infection exists then it should not be ignored and should be looked after well.

  4. Food can be provided through veins and stomach as the will deliver the foods and liquids needed directly and fast.

How can marasmus be prevented?

prevention from disease

diet and Dumbbells


  1. A well balanced diet with all the key nutrient should be consumed to prevent marasmus.

  2. Food rich in protein and fat should be eaten. Eggs, fish, nuts are good source of protein and provide the required energy.

  3. Seasonal green leafy vegetables and fruits should be taken by the affected person on a regular basis.

  4. Clean water and environment are also essential. If the hygiene is not maintained, then marasmus could worsen and the person might not be able to recover fast.

  5. Food should be cooked well so that all the harmful bacteria die.

  6. If the water is unclean then boil it, be it for shower or consumption.

  7. The mother should try to breastfeed the child for long specially in cases where there is lack of food.

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