Condition caused by severe protein deficiency. It is common in tropical and subtropical regions in young children weaned on a diet chiefly of starchy foods such as grains, cassava, plantain, and sweet potato. It causes potbelly, edema, weakness, irritability, dry skin with rash, reddish-orange hair discoloration, diarrhea, anemia, and fat deposits in the liver. Mental development may be stunted. Adults who had the disease in childhood may be at risk of diseases such as cirrhosis. Treatment is protein supplementation, often in the form of dried skim milk. For long-term prevention, development of high-protein plant mixtures based on local food preferences and availability is encouraged. Nondietary causes include inadequate absorption of nutrients by the intestines, chronic alcoholism, kidney disease, and trauma (e.g., infection, burns) causing abnormal protein loss.
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