Kwashiorkor is a form of acute malnutrition that occurs due to protein deficiency. It is also known as ” edematous malnutrition” because of its association with edema (fluid retention). It is a form of malnutrition caused by a lack of protein in the diet. People who have kwashiorkor typically have an extremely emaciated appearance in all body parts except their ankles, feet, and belly, which swell with fluid.
It is most common in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and other countries where people routinely have a limited supply of food.
Kwashiorkor is most common in children, especially if they do not have access to adequate nutrition soon after they stop breastfeeding.
Other terms for Kwashiorkor includes –
• protein malnutrition
• malignant malnutrition
• protein-calorie malnutrition
Children with Kwashiorkor often have very little body fat. The child may appear to be a typical weight or even plump, but this appearance is swelling due to fluid, not the presence of fat or muscle.
Symptoms may include –
• pitting edema or swelling, usually on the legs and feet, when pressing the skin leaves a fingermark.
• lack of muscle and fat tissues
• dermatosis, or skin lesions that are cracked, flaky, patchy, depigmented, or have a combination of all these.
• frequent skin infections or slow-healing wounds
• changes in the color of the hair, which may appear yellow or orange
• loss of appetite
• lethargy and irritability
Kwashiorkor is caused by a lack of protein in the diet. You need protein in your diet for your body to repair cells and make new cells. A healthy human body regenerates cells in this way constantly. Protein is also especially important for growth during childhood and pregnancy. If the body lacks protein, growth and normal body functions will begin to shut down and Kwashiorkor may develop.
Without treatment, Kwashiorkor can lead to the following complications-
• gastrointestinal problems
• cardiovascular problems
• an enlarged liver, known as hepatomegaly
• electrolyte imbalances
• impaired cellular functions
• loss of immune system function
Children with Kwashiorkor may not grow to an expected height due to malnutrition at an early age.
For Kwashioskor’s suspected case, the doctor will first examine to check for an enlarged liver. After that, blood and wire tests may be ordered to measure the level of protein and sugar in your blood.
Other tests may be performed on your blood and urine to measure signs of malnutrition and lack of protein. These tests may look for muscle breakdown and ashes kidney function, overall health, and growth.
These tests include –
• Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
• Blood levels of creatinine
• Blood levels of potassium
• Complete blood count (CBC)
Although Kwashioskar is a condition that relates to malnutrition, merely feeding a child or adult will not correct all of the deficiencies and effects of the condition.
If a child has been living without sufficient protein and nutrients for a long time, they can find it difficult to take in food. It is, therefore, essential to reintroduce food carefully to avoid refeeding syndrome.
Refeeding syndrome involves life-threatening electrolyte and fluid shifts that occur with rapid refeeding of malnourished individuals.
Doctors treating the condition will first give carbohydrates, then add in proteins, vitamins, and minerals. The reintroduction of food may take a week or more to accomplish safely.
If a child’s condition is so advanced that they are in shock, with low blood pressure and a high heart rate, they may need to take medication to support their blood pressure.
Ayurvedic Perspective –
According to Ayurveda, it is a disorder of Annavahasrotas. Kwashiorkor can be correlated with Parigarbhika in Ayurveda.
Effective medications –
Providing adequate calories and protein is usually sufficient to correct Kwashiorkor, provided treatment is started early. Most patients affected with this condition for a long time are not able to digest ingested food. To improve digestion and absorption of food, some medicine could be used which includes –
• Shankh Vati
• Chitrakadi vati
• Lahsunadi Vati
• Hingwashtak Churna
Stunted growth can be treated using medicines such as –
• Lakshadi Gugglu
• Praval Panchamrita Ras
• Shring Bhasm
Some general tonics include –
• Swarna malini vasant
• Swarna parpati
• Tapyadi loha
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