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Marasmus- It’s Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is marasmus ?

Marasmus is a form of emaciation and wasting in an infant due to protein-energy malnutrition. It is characterized by growth retardation in weight more than height so that the head appears quite large relative to the body. There is a progressive wasting of subcutaneous fat and muscle so that the skin appears loose. Severe prolonged marasmus may result in permanent retardation.

Marasmus is common in Third World countries in situations with poor access to protein-rich food sources or where unsanitary water is associated with severe infant diarrhea and a corollary inability to absorb nutrients. The term “marasmus” is also used as roughly equivalent to “anaclitic depression,” a term coined by René Spitz to refer to children who suffer from the early loss of a mother without a suitable substitute.

Causes of marasmus:

In many low-income countries, food variety is limited and results in mineral and vitamin insufficiencies. Therefore any nutrient deficiency can lead to marasmus because appropriate growth can only be ensured by a balanced diet.
Other conditions that might have Marasmus as a complication might be potential underlying causes of Marasmus. The list of conditions listing Marasmus as a complication in our database includes:

• Anorexia Nervosa
• Eating disorders

The causes of marasmus aren’t simply lack of food; as mentioned above, diarrhea is an important cause of marasmus. Diarrhea doesn’t come out of nowhere. One of the leading causes of marasmus is the weaning of a child. Mother’s milk helps protect a child from harmful bacteria, both in that it is sanitary and in that it contains ‘good’ bacteria which inhabit the intestinal tract, preventing ‘bad’ bacteria from gaining a hold.

Some common symptoms of marasmus:

Growth retardation
Muscle wasting
Impaired immunity
Delayed wound healing
Loss of fat stores
Weight loss, progressing in severe cases to emaciation
Chronic diarrhea
Irritability when handled.
A flat or distended abdomen.
Muscle atrophy


Symptoms of marasmus also include extreme weakness, and failure to gain weight, followed by loss of weight. No edema or hepatic enlargement. Brain and skeletal growth continues resulting in a long skinny body and a large head in proportion to weight. Subcutaneous fat is minimal, eyes become sunken and the skin appears loose. The infant is not active, muscles are flabby and relaxed showing gross wasting. The cry is weak and shrill.

Treatment of marasmus :

Vitamin B5 – possibly used for treatment of related vitamin B5 deficiency

Another way of treating marasmus-

The best treatment for improving digestive power is to give regular massage with Vata palliating oils like bala oil, narayan oil, and dhanvantari oil (YR) every day and exposure to early morning sun for 15 minutes. Herbs of choice are bala, shatavari, vidnaga, ashwgandha, and guduchi. These should be given in dose of 1 gram times day with milk or water. Balarishta 10 ml. 3 times a day for 1 month with chyavanprasha 1 teaspoon 3 times a day.

Weatern herbs like fo-ti, ginseng, and marshmallow are also useful.

Source by peterhutch

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