What is marasmus?

Marasmus is a severe form of malnutrition that consists of the chronic wasting away of fat, muscle, and other tissues in the body. Malnutrition occurs when your body does not get enough protein and calories. This lack of nutrition can range from a shortage of certain vitamins to complete starvation. Marasmus is one of the most serious forms of protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) in the world.

Marasmus is a serious problem and is most common in children in developing regions, such as Africa, Latin America, and South Asia, where poverty, along with inadequate food supplies and contaminated water, are prevalent. Contaminated water may contain bacteria or parasites that enter the body when the water is consumed and cause infections that complicate the condition.

Marasmus symptoms will vary depending on the severity and whether associated infections or other conditions are present. General symptoms of marasmus include chronic diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, and rapid weight loss. If the disease is caused solely by poor nutrition, then a change in diet should be enough to correct the problem and prevent recurrence. Marasmus that is related to an underlying disease may require additional treatment.

Seek prompt medical care if you experience prolonged bouts of diarrhea, dizziness, excessive fatigue, or unexplained weight loss.


What are the symptoms of marasmus?

Symptoms of marasmus can range from mild to severe depending on the degree of malnutrition.

Common symptoms of marasmus

You may experience marasmus symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times any of these marasmus symptoms can be severe:


What causes marasmus?

Marasmus is a form of malnutrition in which inadequate amounts of both protein and calories are consumed, resulting in an energy deficit in the body. Marasmus occurs most often in developing nations or in countries where poverty, along with inadequate food supplies and contaminated water, are prevalent. Marasmus often affects children in regions with high rates of poverty, such as Africa, Latin... Read more about marasmuscauses


How is marasmus treated?

A nutritious, well-balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, and protein will reduce the risk of malnutrition and any related marasmus.

Treatment of marasmus involves a special feeding and rehydration plan and close medical observation to prevent and manage complications of malnutrition. Pediatric nutrition rehabilitation centers have been established in some... Read more about marasmustreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Food, Nutrition and Diet