10 Difference Between Kwashiorkor And Marasmus

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What Is Kwashiorkor?

Kwashiorkor is a disease marked by severe protein malnutrition and bilateral extremity swelling. Malnutrition usually affects infants and children more than in adults. The onset of kwashiorkor in infancy is during the weaning or post-weaning period where protein intake has not been sufficiently replaced. Early signs of kwashiorkor present as general symptoms of malnutrition and include fatigue, irritability and lethargy. As protein deprivation continues the following abnormalities become apparent.

  • Failure to thrive (failure to put on height and weight).
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Generalized swelling (oedema)
  • Large protuberant belly (pot belly)
  • Fatty liver
  • Failing immune system so prone to infections and increased severity of normal mild infections.
  • Skin and hair changes.

Kwashiorkor is the commonest and most widespread nutritional disorder in developing countries. It occurs in areas of famine or areas of limited food supply and particularly in those countries where the diet consists mainly of corn, rice and beans. It has also been reported in children following very restricted diets for cultural reasons or in the context of presumed food allergy. 

What You Need To Know About Kwashiorkor

  • Kwashiorkor occurs in children who have normal calorie intake but the diet is severely deficient in proteins.
  • It is characterized by bilateral peripheral pitting edema due to fluid retention and distended abdomen.
  • Symptoms of Kwashiorkor include thinning of hair, dermatitis, loss of teeth and de-pigmentation of skin. 
  • Kwashiorkor occurs in children between 6 month and 3 years of age.
  • The person suffering from kwashiorkor requires adequate amounts of proteins.
  • Acute illness, trauma, infections, measles and sepsis are common causes of kwashiorkor.
  • In the case of kwashiorkor, muscles and limbs get thin, oedema and subcutaneous fat is observed.
  • Enlargement in the fatty liver cells is also a common characteristic of kwashiorkor.
  • Significant weight loss is also common with kwashiorkor. 
  • Appetite is significantly high in people with kwashiorkor.

What Is Marasmus?

Marasmus is a state of protein energy malnutrition that results from a slow and inadequate source of energy and protein intake. Generally malnutrition occurs when the 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 a severe form of protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) in the world.

Marasmus is associated with a better prognosis than kwashiorkor but it is still associated with relatively high mortality. As such, it is important to know how to prevent the development of Marasmus and the complications of treatment such as re-feeding syndrome. Marasmus symptoms will vary depending on the severity and whether associated infections or other conditions are present.

Marasmus is characterized by growth retardation, rapid weight loss, fatigue and progressive wasting of subcutaneous fat and muscle. Other symptoms may include diarrhea, dehydration, behavioral changes, dry, loose skin and dry, brittle hair. Marasmus can be treated with a high calorie, protein-rich diet. Marasmus that is related to an underlying disease may require additional treatment. Severe, prolonged Marasmus may result in permanent mental retardation and impaired growth.

What You Need To Know Marasmus

  • Marasmus occurs in children who have an overall deficiency in energy intake which includes even proteins.
  • Marasmus is characterized by severe muscle wasting and loss of subcutaneous fat in the whole body.
  • Symptoms of Marasmus include dehydration, total muscle loss, anemia, dry skin and brittle hair, children are more irritable.
  • Marasmus is common in children under 1 year of age.
  • The person suffering from Marasmus requires adequate amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
  • Marasmus is caused by chronic infections, and prolonged starvation, recurring infections among other causes.
  • In the case of Marasmus, only limbs get thin, oedema and subcutaneous fat is absent.
  • Unlike kwashiorkor, with Marasmus, there is no enlargement in the fatty liver cells.
  • Severe weight loss is generally a remarkable feature of people with Marasmus.
  • Appetite is generally low in people with Marasmus.

Difference Between Kwashiorkor And Marasmus In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON KWASHIORKOR MARASMUS
Description Kwashiorkor occurs in children who have normal calorie intake but the diet is severely deficient in proteins.   Marasmus occurs in children who have an overall deficiency in energy intake which includes even proteins.  
Main  Symptoms It is characterized by bilateral peripheral pitting edema due to fluid retention and distended abdomen.   Marasmus is characterized by severe muscle wasting and loss of subcutaneous fat in the whole body.  
Other Symptoms Symptoms of Kwashiorkor include thinning of hair, dermatitis, loss of teeth and de-pigmentation of skin.    Symptoms of Marasmus include dehydration, total muscle loss, anemia, dry skin and brittle hair, children are more irritable.  
Prevalence Kwashiorkor occurs in children between 6 month and 3 years of age.   Marasmus is common in children under 1 year of age.  
Treatment The person suffering from kwashiorkor requires adequate amounts of proteins.   The person suffering from Marasmus requires adequate amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates.  
Causes Acute illness, trauma, infections, measles and sepsis are common causes of kwashiorkor.   Marasmus is caused by chronic infections, and prolonged starvation, recurring infections among other causes.  
Limbs In the case of kwashiorkor, muscles and limbs get thin, oedema and subcutaneous fat is observed.   In the case of Marasmus, only limbs get thin, oedema and subcutaneous fat is absent.  
Enlargement Of Fatty Liver Cells Enlargement in the fatty liver cells is also a common characteristic of kwashiorkor.   Unlike kwashiorkor, with Marasmus, there is no enlargement in the fatty liver cells.  
Weight Loss Significant weight loss is also common with kwashiorkor.    Severe weight loss is generally a remarkable feature of people with Marasmus.  
Appetite Appetite is significantly high in people with kwashiorkor.   Appetite is generally low in people with Marasmus.