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

How Do We Define Kwashiorkor?

Kwashiorkor is one of the most common nutritional disorders, which are found in the third world countries. It is a type of malnutrition which is caused when an individual is unable to get enough proteins in the body through food. Protein is required by the body to produce new cells and repair any damaged cells. To stay fit and healthy, the body needs adequate protein levels; hence, if an individual is not able to get enough proteins then this causes a variety of health problems for that individual. This disease is extremely rare in the United States. If left untreated, Kwashiorkor may be potentially fatal.


What Are The Causes Of Kwashiorkor?

As stated, Kwashiorkor is caused by inadequate amount of proteins in the body. This disease is usually found in countries where good food is not readily available, generally in Africa or Central America. This disease is also found in countries battling with economic crisis, natural disasters like famine or floods, political instability etc., which results in inadequate supply to foods for people resulting in malnutrition. Kwashiorkor is extremely rare in United States and is found usually in children who have been subjected to abuse or have been totally neglected.

What Are The Symptoms of Kwashiorkor?

Symptoms of Kwashiorkor Include:

  • Skin discoloration
  • Severe fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Failure to thrive
  • Significant edema
  • Compromised immune system
  • Irritability
  • Enlarged belly.

How Is Kwashiorkor Diagnosed?

To diagnose Kwashiorkor, the treating physician will conduct a detailed physical examination to look for an enlarged liver or edema. The physician may order blood tests to look at the levels of proteins in the blood. The physician may also perform a battery of tests to check for any type of malnutrition which may cause severe protein deficiency some of the tests conducted are:

  • Arterial blood gases
  • BUN
  • Creatinine
  • Potassium levels
  • Urinalysis
  • CBC.

What Are The Treatments For Kwashiorkor?

The best treatment for Kwashiorkor is to eat a healthy and nutritious diet, especially if the disease is diagnosed in the early stages. Treatment may begin by giving carbohydrates, sugars, and fats. Once energy production starts then the individual may be given foods rich in proteins. All of this should be done in a slow and gradual fashion as the individual has been without proper food for a prolonged period of time. Vitamins and minerals may also be supplemented.

What Is The Prognosis Of Kwashiorkor?

The overall prognosis of Kwashiorkor is totally dependent on how soon the condition is diagnosed and treatment is started. If the disease is diagnosed early enough and treatment is started then chances of complete recovery is pretty bright. In case, if there is damage to the mental and physical growth of an individual then that may be permanent. If left untreated, this disease is usually fatal.

What Are The Complications Of Kwashiorkor?

Some Of The Severe Complications Of Kwashiorkor Are:

  • Coma
  • Shock
  • Death.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 26, 2018

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