Kwashiorkor is a protein deficiency which causes severe malnutrition. Important sources of proteins are red meat, fish, chicken, egg, lentils, and beans. Proteins are important for growth and maintenance of body tissues and the parenchymal functioning of organs. Even though a child may be well nourished with colories-rich food, such as starch and sucrose, it may not be well fed with proteins; this type of malnutrition is common in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. In eastern Africa kwashiorkor is usually accompanied by marasmus, which is lack of calories.
Signs and Symptoms
Kwashiorkor can be of first, second, and third degree. The first signs in the third degree type of kwashiorkor are generalized edema (a bloated body), alteration in hair melanin (pigment), hair loss, swollen belly, growth retardation in children, and pallor. The symptoms are severe anemia and white blood cells reduction, which make of the infant an immunodepressed pacient, and liable to acquire an infectious disease and scepticemia (blood poisoning).
The most affected organs are the brain, liver, gastrointestinal mucous membrane, and the hemopoietic system (the system that manufactures red blood cells).
Etymological meaning of "kwashiorkor"
It is a Ghana language word, which means "the disease suffered by the elder child after weaning".