Marasmus is not a very familiar name to many people, though the definition may be. It is a form of malnutrition caused by the deficiency of proteins and calories, as a result of which there is a very limited amount of energy available leading to malfunctions in vital organs of the body.
Although marasmus affects children more, it can also occur in adults especially in regions of poor living conditions.
Causes and predisposing factors for marasmus
- Inadequate amount of food
As simple as this sounds, it is one of the primary causes of marasmus. It is only understandable that anyone who does not have food will not eat enough or healthily, and if one is able to live an affordable life, such diseases can be avoidable.
- Improper consumption of food
Sometimes food may be available based on what is affordable and in such cases; individuals tend to consume more of a particular type of food while neglecting others leading to diseased conditions.
- Health conditions.
Some health conditions prevent the absorption of some specific kinds of food and substances. If protein or calorie absorption is affected, the resultant condition will be marasmus.
Marasmus is more prevalent in children than in adults. Very aged people may find it difficult to take care of themselves, hence suffer this form of malnutrition.
- Birth weight
Children who were born with low birth weight or preterm stand higher chances of getting malnourished.
Symptoms of Marasmus
- Weight loss
Overtime, as malnutrition progresses, patients may be seen to lose more weight as well as become more dehydrated. Parts of the body including body fat and muscle tissues may begin to atrophy following dehydration.
As a result of this, the body mass index (BMI) of these patients will reduce, and they may become underweight.
- Stunted growth
One of the major features of marasmus especially in children is the failure to grow as growth is influenced by the health and diet status of individuals.
This is a sudden loss of appetite for food. While some people usually lose appetite and feel like eating little or no food at all, some patients may be seen sucking on their hands or items close by to them indicating their interest in something edible.
- Folds of skin
When weight loss continues, the skin begins to fold due to loss of body mass. It could become as severe as their bones appearing under their skin, and the eyes sinking in.
- Lack of energy and dizziness
Food gives us the energy to carry out all the activities we should without breaking down. Therefore, when food is absent, dizziness is seen as a visible sign as the patient lacks the ability to produce energy.
- Brittle hair and dry skin
Proteins are very important in bodybuilding tissues such as hair, and nails. Its deficiency will lead to brittle hair which may even fall off.
Fats are used to producing sebum for lubrication of the skin and deficiency of fats will result in dry skin.
- Respiratory infections
- Mental instability.
Patients may experience episodes of uncertainty and depression and show loss of enthusiasm towards life and activities.
Prevention of marasmus
Prevention is always better and easier than treatment. For a diseased condition as marasmus, it takes a long time before it begins to manifest due to the nature of the ailment.
The best way of prevention is to take in enough amounts of protein and calories. Calories are derived from protein, carbohydrates, and even fats. A well-balanced diet will be able to supply enough calories needed for growth and development especially in children.
Children who are still growing will require foods rich in protein like milk, eggs, fish, etc.
It is also advisable to take in adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables to prevent illnesses that may result from vitamin deficiencies.
Treatment of marasmus
Treatment of marasmus requires consistency and dedication. One of the major things professionals will do is create a diet plan for the affected patient in order to keep track of their eating habits.
In some cases where mental instability has ensued, a team of mental health experts may be required to take the patient through courses of therapies.
Most importantly, patients will be put on diets that contain adequate amounts of proteins and calories. If the person has developed a digestion disorder, there may be a need for passing food through nasogastric tubes to enable quick digestion.
In instances where patients have developed other complication like infections, they may be put on drugs that will cure these infections and enhance their health status.