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Kwashiorkor Disease

Kwashiorkor disease is a kind of disease which affects children and is caused due to malnutrition. It has a very deteriorating effect on health. Children from underdeveloped countries are usually the victims due to the insufficiency of resources and lack of proper medical care.
Marlene Alphonse
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
Every child has the right to receive complete nutrition in the form of a balanced diet. This diet helps in the proper growth and development of the body. But there are many unlucky children who do not even have one square meal a day, which leads to malnutrition. Children in underdeveloped and developing countries are severely undernourished or malnourished due to unavailability of proper food. But what is malnutrition and why do these children not have sufficient food? Malnutrition is often referred to as a lack of proper nutritional food which can lead to a number of health disorders. People from these countries are almost poor and are unable to suffice the nutrient requirement of their children.
Facts about the Disease
There are several types of malnutrition diseases, one of them being Kwashiorkor. One of the main causes of this disorder is protein deficiency. This disease is commonly seen in countries which suffer from drought. Poverty is also one of the main causes of malnutrition. The first case of Kwashiorkor was identified in the year 1930 in Ghana, a country in West Africa. The name 'Kwashiorkor' was derived from Ga, a language spoken by the natives and the literal meaning of it is 'one who is physically displaced'. This disease mainly attacks children who are below 5 years of age, and is commonly seen in children who have been weaned of breast milk. Breast milk is a rich source of amino acids and proteins, which are essential for the growth of the child. Once the child has been weaned from breast milk, the nutrients need to be replaced with other protein foods. But this is not so in the case of people living in Ghana and other developing countries. The diet of these people consists of only starchy foods with the absence of proteins, which makes the children more prone to protein energy malnutrition (PEM), the other name for Kwashiorkor disease. If the symptoms are not identified and treated on time, then it can result in death of the individual.
A child who is a victim of Kwashiorkor is completely malnourished. Such a child will exhibit the following symptoms of protein malnutrition.
  • Inability to gain weight and stunted growth.
  • The rib cage is visible due to a decrease in the muscle mass.
  • Large and protruding belly, due to fluid or water retention in the body. This condition is also known as edema. The child may also have swollen feet.
  • A thin face with bulging eyes and prominent lips.
  • An enlarged liver, observed during a physical exam.
  • Lethargic movement. The child may also become irritable.
  • Discoloration of the skin and hair caused due to dermatitis. The skin may begin to peel away and may also become dark. The hair may also become light and may begin to fall in tufts.
  • The child becomes susceptible to a number of infections and diseases due to a weak immune system. A mild infection also has the tendency to become severe in a child with a damaged immune system.
  • Mental retardation.
As this disease can also be seen in newborn babies, the mother should be given a completely balanced or a high protein diet to avoid passing on this disorder to the child. Providing a protein rich diet is the only way to treat this nutritional disorder.