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Kwashiorkor: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Prognosis

Jul 4, 2023

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Causes Of Kwashiorkor

Symptoms of Kwashiorkor

Complications of Kwashiorkor

Diagnosis Of Kwashiorkor

Treatment of kwashiorkor

Prevention Of Kwashiorkor

Prognosis of Kwashiorkor

Kwashiorkor: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Prognosis

Kwashiorkor, often known as "edematous malnutrition" because of its link to edema (fluid retention), is a nutritional disorder that is most frequently seen in countries that are experiencing famine. It is a form of malnutrition caused by a diet low in protein. Except for ankles, feet, and bellies, which swell with fluid, kwashiorkor patients are typically excessively thin throughout their entire body.

If they receive treatment quickly, the majority of kwashiorkor patients recover fully. Protein and additional calories are added to the diet as part of the treatment. When a child has kwashiorkor, they run the risk of not growing or developing normally, and they can spend a life with stunted growth.

Coma, shock, and long-term mental and physical problems are just a few of the major issues that can arise from waiting too long to seek care. When left untreated, kwashiorkor can be fatal. In the end, it may result in organ failure.

Read this blog further to get a quick overview of this important topic Kwashiorkor: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Prognosis for PEDIATRICS to ace your NEET PG exam preparation.

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Causes Of Kwashiorkor

Lack of protein in the diet results in kwashiorkor. Protein is a component of each cell in body. Body needs protein to repair damaged cells and create new ones. This process of cell regeneration occurs continuously in a healthy human body. Additionally, protein is crucial for growth in both pregnancy and childhood.

 If the body doesn't have enough protein, growth and typical bodily processes will start to slow down, and kwashiorkor may appear. Kwashiorkor is more prevalent in nations with scarcity or shortage of food. 

Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America have the highest rates of babies and children who have this condition. These countries regularly face a limited supply or an absence of food during famines brought on by natural calamities, like droughts or floods, or by political instability. 

Lack of nutrition awareness and regional reliance on low-protein diets, such as the diets built around maize in many South American nations, can also contribute to the development of this illness.

In nations where the majority of the population has access to enough food and can consume enough protein, this sickness is uncommon. Kwashiorkor is typically observed in infants or the elderly and may indicate abuse, neglect, or fad diets.

Symptoms of Kwashiorkor

Following are mentioned some of the features of kwashiorkor

  • Edema (fluid-induced swelling, particularly in the ankles and feet).
  • A bloated stomach accompanied by ascites (a fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity).
  • Hair that is brittle, dry, losing hair, and lacking in pigment.
  • Dermatitis is characterized by red, scaly, or peeling skin patches.
  • A fatty liver disease sign is an enlarged liver.
  • Muscular mass was lost while subcutaneous fat was still there.
  • Dehydration.
  • Appetite loss (anorexia).
  • Exhaustion and irritability.
  • Growth retardation in youngsters.

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Complications of Kwashiorkor

Following are listed some of the complications of kwashiorkor:

  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hypothermia( a low body temperature)
  • Low blood volume hypovolemia and hypovolemic shock.
  • Dehydration-related anomalies in electrolytes.
  • Immune system malfunction resulting in repeated infections and poor wound healing.
  • Cirrhosis and failing the liver.
  • Pancreatic atrophy results in digestive system issues.
  • Digestive system atrophy, which can cause bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
  • Delays in the growth and development of youngsters.
  • Perishing and starving.

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Diagnosis Of Kwashiorkor

Your physician will initially perform a physical examination on you if you are suspected to have kwashiorkor to look for swelling and an enlarged liver (hepatomegaly). To determine the amount of protein and sugar in blood, a blood and urine test may also be required.

You can have additional tests on your blood and urine to look for indicators of protein deficiency and malnutrition. These examinations might check for muscle deterioration and evaluate kidney health, growth, and general wellness. A few of these tests are:

  • Arterial blood gasses
  • Urea nitrogen in the blood
  • Serum creatinine levels
  • Complete blood count (CBC), blood potassium levels, and urinalysis.

Treatment of kwashiorkor

Even though kwashiorkor is a malnutrition-related disorder, feeding a kid or adult will not completely address all of the deficits and side effects of the condition.

Youngsters may have trouble swallowing meals if they have gone for a long time without enough protein and other nutrients. To prevent the refeeding syndrome, it is crucial to properly reintroduce food.

Rapidly refeeding malnourished people might result in life-threatening electrolyte and fluid imbalances known as a refeeding syndrome.

It is common for kids with kwashiorkor to also become lactose intolerant. So that their body can manage milk, individuals might need to stay away from dairy products or take enzyme supplements.

Proteins, vitamins, and minerals are added after the administration of carbs by medical professionals treating the illness. It could take a week or longer to safely reintroduce meals.

A child may also require medication to support their blood pressure if their condition is so severe that they are in shock, have low blood pressure, and have a rapid heartbeat.

Prevention Of Kwashiorkor

Kwashiorkor can be prevented with the help of following methods:

  • Education. Some people basically lack knowledge about the importance of eating a nutritious diet, the benefits of nursing, and the dietary needs of both mothers and infants.
  • Provision of food. In the affected countries, the WHO and other organizations are working to reintroduce local crops that are sources of protein and micronutrients. Utilizing locally available resources like skim milk and peanuts, they have developed dietary formulations.
  • Disease Management. The ability of high-risk groups to fight off diseases and infections deteriorates. Chronic diarrhea may make sick bodies lose calories while simultaneously increasing their need for nutrients. 

Diseases also reduce the physical resources of a community, which causes poverty. With the aid of improved hygiene and vaccinations, malnutrition can be significantly avoided.

Prognosis of Kwashiorkor

Kwashiorkor may result in death if neglected. Dehydration, infection, and liver failure are all potential causes of death. People are also at a high risk of refeeding syndrome problems at the start of treatment. People who receive effective rehabilitation, however, can achieve a full recovery. Kwashiorkor might still be having some aftereffects on them, or it might not.

As kwashiorkor is untreated for a longer period of time, its problems become more severe and last longer. There's a chance that some kids won't ever fully catch up on their growth and development deficiencies. They could still have a predisposition to pancreatic insufficiency and liver disease. Better results are achieved when intervention occurs earlier.

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