Medicine & USMLE

Kwashiorkor and Marasmus

  1. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Biochemistry
  2. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Deficiency
  3. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  4. Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Biochemistry
  5. Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Deficiency and Excess
  6. Hartnup Disease
  7. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
  8. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  9. Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
  10. Vitamin B9 (Folate)
  11. Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) Biochemistry
  12. Vitamins B9 and B12 Deficiencies
  13. Vitamin A (Retinol) Biochemistry
  14. Vitamin A (Retinol) Deficiency and Excess
  15. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) Biochemistry
  16. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) Deficiency and Excess
  17. Vitamin D Biochemistry
  18. Vitamin D Deficiency and Excess
  19. Vitamin E (Tocopherol/Tocotrienol)
  20. Vitamin K Biochemistry
  21. Vitamin K Deficiency
  22. Zinc
  23. Kwashiorkor and Marasmus


Kwashiorkor and Marasmus are diseases of severe malnutrition, which are rare in developed countries but sometimes observed in developing countries. Kwashiorkor is a disease caused by protein deficiency, presenting with swelling of the belly (secondary to edema), skin lesions, fatty change of the liver, and anemia. Marasmus describes generalized muscle wasting caused by a deficiency of all nutrients, or a total caloric deficiency. It can be seen in people with poor intake, although cancer-related muscle wasting may also be described as marasmus.

Key Points

  • Kwashiorkor
    • Also known as “edematous malnutrition”
    • Caused by protein deficiency
    • Classically presents in children with:
      • swollen edematous belly
        • low plasma oncotic pressure secondary to decreased albumin
      • fatty liver disease
        • thought to be secondary to decreased apolipoproteins
      • skin lesions (e.g. hyperkeratosis, dyspigmentation)
      • anemia
        • thought to be secondary to reduced globin proteins
  • Maramus
    • From Latin marasmos (wasting away/withering)
    • Caused by total caloric deficiency
    • Symptoms include generalized muscle wasting

Find Kwashiorkor, Marasmus, and other Nutrition topics among Pixorize's visual mnemonics for the USMLE Step 1 and NBME Shelf Exams.