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Starved child.jpg|
ICD-10 E41-E42
ICD-9 261
OMIM [1]
DiseasesDB 7826
MedlinePlus [2]
eMedicine ped/164
MeSH {{{MeshNumber}}}

Marasmus is a form of severe protein-energy malnutrition characterized by energy deficiency.

A child with marasmus looks emaciated. Body weight may be reduced to less than 80% of the normal weight for that height. Marasmus occurrence increases prior to age 1, whereas kwashiorkor occurrence increases after 18 months.

The prognosis is better than it is in kwashiorkor.[1]

Signs and symptoms

The malnutrition associated with marasmus leads to extensive tissue and muscle wasting, as well as variable edema. Other common characteristics include dry skin, loose skin folds hanging over the glutei, axillae, etc. There is also drastic loss of adipose tissue from normal areas of fat deposits like buttocks and thighs. The afflicted are often fretful, irritable, and voraciously hungry.


It is necessary to treat not only the symptoms but also the complications of the disorder, including infections, dehydration and circulation disorders, which are frequently lethal and lead to high mortality if ignored.

Ultimately, marasmus can progress to the point of no return when the body's machinery for protein synthesis, itself made of protein, has been degraded to the point that it cannot handle any protein. At this point, attempts to correct the disorder by giving food or protein are futile.


Marasmus is caused by a severe deficiency of nearly all nutrients, especially protein and calories.


  1. Badaloo AV, Forrester T, Reid M, Jahoor F (June 2006). Lipid kinetic differences between children with kwashiorkor and those with marasmus. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 83 (6): 1283–8.

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