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Malnutrition occurs when people are not getting enough nutrients from the food they eat or do not consume enough food to function properly. It can also occur when a person does not eat healthy foods. Millions of people all over the world suffer from malnutrition. It is more common in underdeveloped countries and among the impoverished. It can be corrected with proper nutrition. 

What is Malnutrition?

Risk Factors for Malnutrition

People who are at risk of malnutrition are often people who do not have access to healthy food or do not have enough food. Children, the elderly and disabled persons commonly suffer from this condition. Some people are unable to digest food or absorb certain vitamins and nutrients, which can also put them at risk of malnutrition. 

Causes of Malnutrition

Several things can cause malnutrition. It may be the result of a medical condition or environmental factors. The most common causes of malnutrition include:

Causes of Malnutrition

Symptoms of Malnutrition

People who suffer from malnutrition can have a variety of symptoms. Some people may experience a lot of symptoms and others may only experience a few. It can sometimes be hard to diagnose malnutrition until it becomes severe. Many other illnesses can have the same symptoms as malnutrition. Some of the most common symptoms of malnutrition include: 

  • Lack of appetite
  • Tiredness 
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Always feeling cold
  • Loss of fat
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Higher risk of getting sick 
  • Longer healing time 
  • Higher risk of complications after surgery
  • Depression
  • Reduced sex drive 
  • Fertility problems

Diagnosis of Malnutrition 

A doctor can diagnose malnutrition with a physical exam and some tests. The sooner the malnutrition and the cause of the condition are diagnosed; the faster the treatment can begin. The most common diagnostic test used to determine if a person is suffering from malnutrition is the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool. Doctors may also perform other diagnostic tests including: 

  • Blood tests
  • Stool samples
  • MRIs
  • Barium swallow test 
  • X-rays
  • Endoscopy
  • Colonoscopy

Treatment of Malnutrition

Malnutrition is treated by paying close attention to the cause of the condition. If the cause is a medical problem, doctors will work to correct it so the patient can absorb nutrients and recover. Doctors may also suggest a special diet that is high in vitamins and nutrients. During treatment, the patient will be monitored to ensure that the treatment is working properly and are not getting worse. In severe cases, people suffering from malnutrition may be hospitalized. 

Prognosis of Malnutrition

Malnutrition that is diagnosed early and treated promptly can be reversed quickly and easily. Severe cases can take longer and require more aggressive treatments. A person who loses more than 40 percent of their body weight due to malnutrition may not recover at all. People who are at risk of malnutrition are also at risk of suffering from the condition after successful treatment. Doctors monitor these patients carefully to ensure that they are sticking the treatment and are on the path to recovery. If left untreated, malnutrition can lead to death.

Diet and Nutrition, Malnutrition


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