Over 5 million kids suffer from a condition called Marasmus every year. In developing countries, malnutrition of children aged less than a year is very common; marasmus is an extreme kind of this malnutrition which wasting and emaciation causes. When body doesn’t have enough proteins and energy to carry out the tasks, it results in Marasmus in children. Marasmus is used to make reference to the Anaclitic Depression – it’s the condition when children lose their mothers at an early stage in their lives and don’t find a substitute.

Developing countries like Africa, South Asia and Latin America has most number of cases of Marasmus because the poor state of the people makes it difficult for the kids to get sufficient amount of proteins and unhygienic atmosphere contributes to the disease even more. Coupled with Cachexia and Kwashiorkor, it is collectively known as Protein Energy Malnutrition or PEM. As per the findings of a study by WHO, 49% of kids under the age of 5 die due to PEM in developing countries.


Marasmus Symptoms

Marasmus has some clear symptoms that help you recognise the illness. One of these includes reduced weight gain – increase in height is a mismatch with the weight gained and thus, head appears to be larger in size compared to the rest of the body. Muscle wasting is another feature of the disease that makes skin appear loose and bones stick out. The kids feel lethargic for the body and make attempts to save energy which leads to getting irritated and feel hungry. Extreme wasting for a long time can lead to irreversible retardation.

The other symptoms are:

  • Abnormal limbs
  • Vomiting
  • Improper immunity
  • Sunken eyes
  • Chronic Diarrhoea
  • Hypotonia
  • Flat abdomen
  • Shrill cry
  • Increased appetite

Marasmus Causes

Body needs proteins to function properly. These proteins have amino acid polymers that are crucial for growth in human beings. This condition is caused when the body doesn’t get enough proteins or fails to digest them properly. In both the cases, it results in malnutrition – problem when body doesn’t have nutrients to function and grow. It could be inadequacy of a few nutrients or full blown starvation among the kids who live in the developing nations. Mostly, during the transition from mother’s milk to a meal is made, the kids suffer from Marasmus. Breast milk is regarded as the complete meal for a baby; it gives them all the proteins that it needs to develop. However, if it is not followed by a good diet, the chances of developing Marasmus increases. Infections also give rise to Marasmus which is particularly common in children with borderline malnutrition. Early loss of mother, long term starvation to treat diarrhoea, insufficient food and infective diarrhoea are a few other reasons.

Marasmus Diagnosis And Treatment

Physical examination, in most cases, diagnoses the disease but the doctor could get more tests done to detect complications and monitor the treatment of the illness. These include blood glucose analysis, microscopy, urine examination, HIV test and albumin test.

To treat a baby with Marasmus, his diet is closely monitored and a feeding plan is specified for the restoration of nutrients in his body. Also, the complications need to be managed and avoided. First of all, a good diet, rich nutrients, balanced with fruits and vegetables helps in treating it. Vitamin supplements are prescribed by the doctor to tackle the Vitamin B5 deficiency in the body. Oil massage increases the digestive ability of the body while 15 minutes of sun exposure every morning can help in improving the health. Various herbs – Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Bala, Fo-ti, Marshmallow – also help recover the health. 1 gram with milk or water can improve the digestive capacity. Chyavanprasha thrice a day is good for health too – in a month, there is a lot of recovery made. Other than that, oral rehydration solutions, nasogastric feeding tubes are the other treatments used while there are also pediatric nutrition rehabilitation centres to fight malnutrition.

Even in worst cases of Marasmus, condition is likely to improve if proper treatment is done. Compared to any other disorder, Marasmus patients get better results when treated. Their weight is monitored fortnightly and helps in determination of success of the treatment.

Marasmus Complications

Due to the prolonged starvation and malnutrition, kids often suffer from complications if the disease goes untreated. Growth problems, retardation in physical as well as mental development, coma, unconsciousness, loss of vision leading to blindness, deformity of joints, organ failure are some of the problems. In severe cases, failure in providing appropriate treatment can lead to death too.

Marasmus Prevention

However effective the treatment might be, prevention is always better than cure. To help your kids’ positive and unhitched growth, you should take some measures and implement healthy practices at home. First thing would be to prevent and treat Diarrhoea. A good diet comprising of all the nutrients a body needs should be given to the kid. Protein such as milk, eggs and fish gives kids energy and fruits and vegetables restore the minerals and vitamin deficiencies. Solid foods should be added in the diet gradually so as to avoid the complications that a poor digestive system causes. Even the temperature at which food is cooked is important – heat kills the bacteria and saves the kids from unwanted infections. And needless to say, hygienic food practices should be followed – clean utensils, storing food in the freezer, avoiding cross-contamination of foods and heating everything before consumption are a few things one should bear in mind.

The mothers should take extra care with their kids. For as long as it is possible, they should feed the kids with the breast milk as it is the best food for the baby. Educating women about the advantages of breast milk could help bring a change in developing countries. As they say, child is the father of the man – he should be brought up safe and in a safe environment. Proper diagnosis and timely treatment can save the kids so if yours is showing any of the symptoms or retarded growth, you should consult a doctor without any delay.

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