Kwashiorkor is a form of malnutrition caused by eating too little protein. Increasing calorie and protein intake corrects protein malnutrition, provided treatment begins early enough. If left untreated, kwashiorkor is life-threatening. Symptoms include failure to grow or gain weight, changes in skin pigmentation, changes in hair color and texture, a compromised immune system, fatigue, irritability, lethargy, protrusion of the stomach, swelling and diarrhea. Children suffering from the condition do not reach their full height potential. They can also experience shock, coma and permanent physical or mental disability.
The treatment for kwashiorkor depends on the severity of the condition. Shock and coma require immediate medical intervention. Other treatments include the reintroduction of food, which must occur gradually to prevent complications. Carbohydrates, fats and simple sugars must precede the reintroduction of protein. Lactose intolerant children suffering from kwashiorkor must take supplements containing lactase to tolerate milk products. Protein malnutrition typically occurs in poor and developing countries or areas affected by natural disasters or political unrest. The condition is rare in the developed world, usually indicating abuse or neglect.Learn more about Nutrition & Diets