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Malnutrition

  • Definition
    • Malnutrition is the condition that occurs when your body does not get enough nutrients.

  • Alternative Names
    • Nutrition - inadequate

  • Causes
  • Symptoms
    • Symptoms of malnutrition vary and depend on its cause. General symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, and weight loss.

  • Exams and Tests
    • Testing depends on the specific disorder. Most health care providers will do a nutritional assessment 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 the risk of malnutrition with your provider. Treatment is necessary if you or your child have any changes in the body's ability to function. Contact your provider if these symptoms develop:

      • Fainting
      • Lack of menstruation
      • Lack of growth in children
      • Rapid hair loss
  • Prevention
    • Eating a well-balanced diet helps to prevent most forms of malnutrition.

  • References
    • Alderman H, Shekar M. Nutrition, food security, and health. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme III JW, Schor NF, Behrman RE, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 43.

      Becker JP, Carney LN, Corkins MR, et al. Consensus statement of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics/American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition: Indicators recommended for the identification and documentation of pediatric malnutrition (undernutrition). J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114(12):1988-2000.

      Manary MJ, Trehan I. Protein-energy malnutrition. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 215.