Disorders

Introduction on Kwashiorkor Disease and Treatment

Kwashiorkor Disease

They are many diseases and aliments that sometimes only affect children. Since this section of the population is so helpless, it is important for parents to recognize the symptoms and get medical attention for their children.

Kwashiorkor is also referred to as protein malnutrition or malignant malnutrition. Kwashiorkor is a disorder caused by a lack of nutrients, including protein in the diet. It occurs in areas of famine, or with a limited food supply and a lower level of education, which tends to lead to a lack of knowledge concerning diet.

Who Can Get It?

Children are mostly inflicted with Kwashiorkor. This disease usually affects children form poor countries, countries that suffer from drought, and political unrest. The disease is rarely seen in the United States. Some elderly patients in nursing homes can suffer from protein malnutrition.

What cause it?

Kwashiorkor is caused by a child not getting enough protein in their diet.

How does it happen?

When a baby is nursing, it receives amino acids and other nutrients from its mother’s milk. Once the baby is weaned off, it the diet that is substituted for the milk is high in starches and carbohydrates, and lacking in protein, the child can develop kwashiorkor.

When does it appear?

The symptoms appear early in the child. They will appear to have a swollen, large belly. Their hair can appear reddish in color. The hair will also appear thin and become brittle to the touch. The child will develop changes in the pigmentation of their skin. Its face may also appear to have a bull-dog like appearance.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of Kwashiorkor include fatigue, irritability and lethargy. The child can also experience diarrhea, and skin aliments, such as dermatitis. The skin may appear to be darker in some areas and lighter in others. The child also will have a large protuberant belly. The child will also have an increased number of infections, due to the damage to its immune system. In the later stages the child can experience shock and even fall into a coma.

How can it be diagnosed?

Doctors can easily diagnosis Kwashiorkor. A physical exam will be conducted to check for an enlarged liver. They also will be a number of tests done to check for renal function. Also, tests will be done to check the child’s protein levels.

What treatments are available?

Early treatment of Kwashiorkor is the key for improving the child’s health. If this disease goes untreated the child can be left with permanent physical and mental problems. Evidence shows that malnutrition early in life will permanently decrease the child’s IQ. However, these children will never reach their full height or growth potential if they suffer from this aliment. Treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. If a child is in shock that would require immediate attention to help restore the child’s blood pressure. The child is first given calories in the form of carbohydrate sugars, and fats. Proteins are then started when the other sources have increased the child’s energy. Vitamins and mineral supplements are also given. Since the child has been without the proper diet for sometime, it is important that the feedings are started slowly, as to not shock the child’s system.  Some children will develop intolerance to milk sugars, and will need to be supplemented with the enzyme lactase if they are to get the benefits from milk products.

They are times when certain diseases and aliments are a direct result of the environment in which a person lives in. These children inflicted with Kwashiorkor do not have the proper diet available to them. They live in poor, underdeveloped communities struggling to feed each other. In the end the children don’t get enough food to eat, and the food they do get does not provide them with the adequate nutrients that they need to grow. Medical attention is also hard for them to get. Many times they are left to rely on the help from other more developed countries. It is important for developed countries to be able to provide the necessary food and medical attention to these young victims of poverty and famine, without help they will not live to grow up.

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