AskDefine | Define marasmus

Dictionary Definition

marasmus n : extreme malnutrition and emaciation (especially in children); can result from inadequate intake of food or from malabsorption or metabolic disorders

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. any wasting disease, especially a severe loss of body weight, in children, caused by malnutrition or the inability to digest protein

Extensive Definition

Marasmus is a form of severe protein-energy malnutrition characterized by energy deficiency. Other PEMs include kwashiorkor and cachexia.
A child with marasmus looks emaciated and 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.

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 progresses to the point of no return when the body's machinery for protein synthesis, itself made of protein, has been degraded. At this point, attempts to correct the disorder by giving food or protein will fail to prevent death.


Marasmus is caused by a severe deficiency of nearly all nutrients, especially protein and calories.
marasmus in Danish: Marasmus
marasmus in German: Marasmus
marasmus in Spanish: Marasmo
marasmus in Dutch: Marasmus
marasmus in Norwegian Nynorsk: Marasmus
marasmus in Polish: Marazm
marasmus in Russian: Алиментарный маразм
marasmus in Finnish: Marasmi
marasmus in Ukrainian: Маразм
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