Kwashiorkor is malnutrition caused by lack of protein in the diet, according to Healthline. If caught early enough, treatment consists of slowly increasing calories to allow the body to adjust, beginning with adding carbohydrates, then sugars and fats and finally protein. Uncommon in the United States, kwashiorkor is primarily a disease of children in developing countries in Africa and South America.
Kwashiorkor can cause permanently stunted growth along with intellectual impairment, explains Healthline. Left untreated, kwashiorkor can even be fatal. In more advanced cases, a patient can require intravenous fluids for dehydration or antibiotics to treat infection, Better Medicine from Health Grades explains, in addition to feeding therapy. In the long term vitamins and supplements can also ameliorate deficiencies.
Symptoms of more advanced kwashiorkor include a swollen and distended belly from liver enlargement, skin and hair color changes to a reddish-orange, fatigue, weight loss, muscle wasting, slowed growth and weakening of the immune system resulting in frequent infections, according to Healthline.
Prevention of kwashiorkor involves getting 10 to 35 percent of daily calories from protein, explains Healthline. Protein-rich foods include meat, dairy, fish, eggs, beans and soy. Most common in areas devastated by famine, kwashiorkor can also be caused by changes in diet due to dairy allergy, and infections or parasites that interfere with the body's absorption of protein, according to Better Medicine from Health Grades.