Malnutrition
    
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Malnutrition

Definition

Malnutrition is the condition that occurs when a person's body is not getting enough nutrients. The condition may result from an inadequate or unbalanced diet, digestive difficulties, absorption problems, or other medical conditions.

Alternative Names

Nutrition - inadequate

Causes

Malnutrition can occur because of the lack of a single vitamin in the diet, or it can be because a person isn't getting enough food. Starvation is a form of malnutrition. Malnutrition also occurs when adequate nutrients are consumed in the diet, but one or more nutrients are not digested or absorbed properly.

Malnutrition may be mild enough to show no symptoms. However, in some cases it may be so severe that the damage done is irreversible, even though the individual survives.

Worldwide, malnutrition continues to be a significant problem, especially among children who cannot fend adequately for themselves. Poverty, natural disasters, political problems, and war all contribute to conditions -- even epidemics -- of malnutrition and starvation, and not just in developing countries.

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Symptoms

Symptoms vary with the specific malnutrition-related disorder. However, some general symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, weight loss and decreased immune response.

Exams and Tests

Testing depends on the specific disorder. Most work-ups include nutritional assessments and blood work.

Treatment

Treatment usually consists of replacing missing nutrients, treating symptoms as needed, and treating any underlying medical condition.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook depends on the cause of the malnutrition. Most nutritional deficiencies can be corrected. However, if malnutrition is caused by a medical condition, that illness has to be treated in order to reverse the nutritional deficiency.

Possible Complications

If untreated, malnutrition can lead to mental or physical disability, illness, and possibly death.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Discuss your risk of malnutrition with your health care provider. You must seek treatment if you experience any change in your body's ability to function. The symptoms include, but are not limited to, fainting, lack of menstruation, lack of growth in children, and rapid hair loss.

Prevention

Eating a good, well-balanced diet helps to prevent most forms of malnutrition.

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