It is principally due to the consumption of diets grossly deficient in both proteins and calories. It is seen most commonly in weaned infants of about 1 year of age in contrast to kwashiorkor which occurs more often among children of the age group 2 to 4 years. Nutritional marasmus is usually precipitated by diarrhoeal diseases or measles.
Marasmus A disease that results essentially from starvation- not consuming sufficient protein and calories. Thus it is the equivalent to severe protein-energy malnutrition. The infant or adult will show severe low weight, have little or no fat stores, little muscle mass, and poor strength.
Clinical features: The two constant features of nutritional marasmus are growth retardation and severe wasting of muscle and loss of subcutaneous fat.
Growth retardation: This is usually very severe. Loss of weight is much more marked than decrease in height. The child is usually below 60% of the standard weight. Wasting of muscle and of subcutaneous fat: The subject is severly emaciated. The muscles are wasted. The arms are thin and the skin is loose. Subcutaneous fat is practically absent.
Other changes: The skin is dry and atrophic. The subject shows signs of dehydration. Eye lesions due to vitamin Adeficiency and anaemia may be present.
Biochemical changes: There is slight lowering of serum albumin. Vitamin A content of serum is low.