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What are the Symptoms of Nutritional Marasmus & Can the Child Suffering from it Be Brought Back to Normal Condition?

About Marasmus:

Unavailability of proper nutritional diet can often lead to severe malnutrition that in turn can lead to various deficiency ailments. Marasmus is one such ailment that stems out of severe and prolonged malnutrition. In this article, we discuss what the symptoms of nutritional marasmus are. It is necessary to know if a child suffering from marasmus can be brought back to normal condition.

The human body needs a constant flow of nutrition. It is out of the diverse elements of nutritional constituents and elements that the body cells derive all the possible energy and dynamism that helps the human body to remain healthy and adequately growing over the years. In marasmus, the body experiences a severe lack of energy and also an emaciated look.

Who is Affected Most by Nutritional Marasmus?

Marasmus is often found in children, often as young as one-year-old. Marasmus is a condition that is distinctly different from kwashiorkor in terms of the deficiencies that adds to the situation and the after-effects of the condition. Kwashiorkor is a condition that occurs mainly amongst children above the age of 18 months. This is a condition that is marked by an acute protein deficiency that stunts their growth. Marasmus, on the other hand, is a lack of proper energy intake in all its various forms that will also include protein. However, these two conditions are very similar to each other and cannot be differentiated from one another at all times. The term ‘Marasmus” comes from the Greek term Marasmus which means ‘Withering’.

What are the Symptoms of Nutritional Marasmus?

When discussing the symptoms of nutritional marasmus, it is necessary to know that in this condition a child suffers from severe malnutrition for a prolonged period. It is quite rare in developed countries but is often more prevalent in developing nations. It is commonly seen in some parts of Asia and Africa.

Some of the symptoms of nutritional marasmus, as known from scientific literature include poor appetite, subnormal temperature, poor weight gain, slow and small pulse, sometimes rigidity of muscles and varying stools.[1]

Some common symptoms of nutritional marasmus are as follows:

Poor Growth: One of the prime symptoms of nutritional marasmus is poor growth of the child. This will be indicated by the weight and also the height of the child. Both the parameters will be inadequate as per the standards of the age of the child. This is one of the most common symptoms of nutritional marasmus.

Extremely Slim Body as a Sign of Nutritional Marasmus: Another very important symptom of marasmus is the very look and the appearance of the child. Due to a severe lack of nutrition, the child has a very thin look and has a deficit of 62% of the weight that he or she should have at a particular age. This results in loss of the muscles and the subcutaneous fat which is the layer of fat just under the skin. As a result of this, the bones are visible through the skin. This gives a skeletal kind of look to the child.

Mentally Alert but Lacks Energy: The child may have a miserable look but will be mentally alert. The child often lacks the energy to do anything and seems to just waste away.

Change of Skin Color and Texture as a Symptom of Nutritional Marasmus: Often there is a change in the color and the texture of the skin. The skin on the face and the buttock wrinkles and gets folded. However, this is a symptom that is all the more predominant in the case of the Kwashiorkor which is a severe case of protein deficiency. This is the condition when skin color often becomes pale and discolored.

Change in Hair Color: Often, marasmus also changes the hair color, where black hair gets transformed into brown color.

Diarrhea as a Sign of Nutritional Marasmus: Now this is a condition which is not always present in all marasmus condition. However, if this condition emerges, dehydration can take place really easy. This is actually an added criticality to the already alarming situation. This symptom of nutritional marasmus needs immediate medical attention.

Wrinkled Face: Often wrinkled skin of the face and bulging eyes give a look of an older person to a child. This distorts the very look of the child and he or she can acquire the look of an old man.

Anemia: Prolonged marasmus can make the child anemic. This is a condition that marks the depletion of the required red blood cells (RBC) in the body and hence indicates the reduced volume of oxygen in the body. This also harms the oxygen flow in our body and the child can become weaker. The child’s immunity falls swiftly exposing the body to the risk of other diseases.

Flat Stomach and Big Head as a Symptom of Nutritional Marasmus: Another symptom of marasmus is that the stomach of the child flattens whereas the head has a large and a bulged look. This also happens since the body stops its growth hence the head looks bigger against the stunted body.

Can a Child Suffering from Nutritional Marasmus be Brought Back to Normal Condition?

A child suffering from nutritional marasmus is basically suffering from a lack of nutrition. Marasmus is not a disease but a health condition that occurs from malnutrition.

Sometimes children suffering from nutritional marasmus have their appetite intact. They seem to be sucking on to their thumbs or other things since they do not get enough to eat. When given food they are seen to eat in a voracious manner. Once they are provided with adequate food for a continued period, they can overcome the situation quite fast and can gain back their normal health. Such children must be given a nutritious diet of all types of elements of nutrition like carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. No sooner they start feasting good foods for a few days, they gain back their weight at a pretty fast pace. Then, they start thinking or behaving normally. Thus, it can be said that once a proper diet is provided and nutritional status is maintained, a child suffering from nutritional marasmus can be brought back to normal condition.


Nutritional marasmus is a deplorable condition where children are unable to eat enough food due to scarcity and poverty. This is a prevalent condition in many countries especially in Africa and Asia. It should be kept in mind that prolonged marasmus can lead to death. This is a condition that can also occur amongst adults if they face a similar condition of malnutrition for a long time. Knowing the symptoms of nutritional marasmus can help manage the situation by providing medical help and proper nutrition in time. With appropriate diet and nutrition, a child suffering from nutritional marasmus can be brought back to normal condition.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 17, 2019

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