Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital
a patient or visitor a physician or healthcare professional an employer
PrintEmail
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+) font size

medical services home
search by doctor name 
Doctor Name Contains (Smart Search)
OR
search by specialty

search by city/zip code
Find a doctor near your location by entering a city name OR ZIP code.
Near:


Within miles:
0 1 5 10 15 30 30+

search by insurance
Insurance Name Contains (Smart Search)
 (what's this)
 
 

Malnutrition

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Nutrition - inadequate

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

There are a number of causes of malnutrition. It may result from:

  • Inadequate or unbalanced diet
  • Problems with digestion or absorption
  • Certain medical conditions

Malnutrition can occur if you do not eat enough food. Starvation is a form of malnutrition.

You may develop malnutrition if you lack of a single vitamin in the diet.

In some cases, malnutrition is very mild and causes no symptoms. However, sometimes it can be so severe that the damage done to the body is permanent, even though you survive.

Malnutrition continues to be a significant problem all over the world, especially among children. Poverty, natural disasters, political problems, and war all contribute to conditions -- even epidemics -- of malnutrition and starvation, and not just in developing countries.

Related topics:

Symptoms

Symptoms vary and depend on what is causing the malnutrition. However, some general symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, and weight loss.

Signs 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.

Expectations (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.

Complications

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

Calling your health care provider

Discuss the risk of malnutrition with your health care provider. Treatment is necessary if you or your child have any changes in the body's ability to function. Contact your health care provider if the following symptoms develop:

  • 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.

References

Grover Z, Ee LC. Protein energy malnutrition. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2009 Oct;56(5):1055-68.

Visvanathan R, Chapman IM. Undernutrition and anorexia in the older person. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2009 Sep;38(3):393-409.

Suskind DL. Nutritional deficiencies during normal growth. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2009 Oct;56(5):1035-53.

Kirby M, Danner E. Nutritional deficiencies in children on restricted diets. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2009 Oct;56(5):1085-103.


Review Date: 6/14/2011
Reviewed By: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine (4/30/2011).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com
 

quick links patient information health care professional information employer information connect with Advocate

About Advocate | Contact Us | Jobs | SiteMap | Terms of Use | Notice of privacy practices ®Advocate Health Care, Downers Grove, Illinois, USA | 1.800.3.ADVOCATE | TDD 312.528.5030