What is Kwashiorkor Disease?

Kwashiorkor is a severe form of malnutrition caused by an inadequate protein intake in a person’s diet. It is most often seen in developing countries. The term Kwashiorkor comes from the Ga language of Ghana, and it literally means “the sickness the baby gets when the other one is weaned”. Kwashiorkor usually affects children between the ages of one and four years old. The condition is caused by imbalances in the body's absorption and utilization of proteins, and the resulting effects may be life-threatening if left untreated.

Symptoms of Kwashiorkor

The signs and symptoms of Kwashiorkor include:

  • A swollen belly
  • Dry and thinning hair
  • A bloated face and feet
  • Fatigue and listlessness
  • Decreased immunity to infections
  • Apathy
  • Depression
  • Fatty liver Disease
  • Unusually pale skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability and restlessness

Treatment of Kwashiorkor

Kwashiorkor is treated with a balanced diet that includes proteins and calories. Along with a balanced diet, the healthcare provider may recommend vitamin and mineral supplements. Since the disease is caused by a lack of protein, adequate dietary protein must be provided. In some cases, the patient may need to be hospitalized in order to receive intensive nutritional support. If the child is severely malnourished, often a period of stabilization is necessary before starting nutritional support.

It is recommended to speak to a healthcare provider or nutritionist about designing an appropriate diet for children with Kwashiorkor.