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Definition A condition caused by inadequate intake or inadequate digestion of nutrients. It may result from eating an inadequate or unbalanced diet, digestive problems, absorption problems, or other medical conditions.
Alternative Names Nutrition - inadequate
Causes, incidence, and risk factors Malnutrition is a general term that indicates a lack of some or all nutritional elements. This can occur because of deficiencies in the diet. Single vitamin deficiencies are a form of malnutrition just as starvation is a form of malnutrition. Malnutrition can also occur when nutrients are adequately consumed in the diet, but one or more nutrients are not digested or absorbed properly. Malnutrition may be mild enough to show no symptoms or so severe that the damage it has done is irreversible even though the individual may be kept alive. Worldwide, malnutrition continues to be a significant problem, especially among children who cannot fend adequately for themselves. Poverty, natural disasters, political problems and war in countries such as Biafra, Somalia, Rwanda, Iraq, and many others have demonstrated that hunger and malnutrition are not strangers to this world. Related topics:
  • absorption
  • beriberi
  • binge eating
  • deficiency - Vitamin A
  • deficiency - Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • deficiency - Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • deficiency - Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • deficiency - Vitamin B9 (folacin)
  • deficiency - Vitamin E
  • deficiency - Vitamin K
  • digestion
  • eating disorders
  • food guide pyramid
  • kwashiorkor
  • malabsorption
  • marasmus
  • megaloblastic anemia
  • nutrients
  • pellagra
  • rickets
  • scurvy
  • spina bifida
  • vitamins
  • Minerals, trace elements and other dietary factors are covered under the term "diet and XXXX" where XXXX is the name of dietary factor. An example would be
  • diet and iodine .
    Symptoms Symptoms vary with the specific malnutrition-related disorder. However, some general symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, weight loss and decreased immune response.
    Signs and tests Tests vary with the specific malnutrition-related disorder. Most work-ups include nutritional assessments and blood work.
    Treatment Treatment usually consists of replacement of missing nutrients; and treatment of symptoms as necessary and treatment of underlying medical condition.
    Support Groups 
    Expectations (prognosis) Prognosis is different for different causes of malnutrition. Most nutritional deficiencies can be replaced. However, if caused by a medical condition, that illness has to be treated in order to reverse the nutritional deficiency.
    Complications Malnutrition can lead to mental disability, physical disability, illness, and even death, if untreated.
    Calling your health care provider You are encouraged to discuss your risk of malnutrition with your health care provider. However, you must seek treatment if you experience any marked change in your body's functioning. These symptoms include, but are not limited to, fainting, lack of menstruation, lack of growth in children, rapid hair loss.
    Prevention Eating a good, well-balanced diet helps to prevent most forms of malnutrition. Also, see appropriate diet for age.

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