Starvation and Plasma Protein Deficiency

Several conditions can lead to hypoproteinemia, a deficiency of plasma
protein: extreme starvation or dietary protein deficiency, liver diseases
that interfere with protein synthesis, kidney diseases that result in protein
loss through the urine, and severe burns that result in protein loss
through the body surface. As the protein content of the blood plasma
drops, so does its osmolarity. The bloodstream loses more fluid to the
tissues than it reabsorbs by osmosis. Thus, the tissues become edematous
and a pool of fluid may accumulate in the abdominal cavity—a
condition called ascites
Children who suffer severe dietary protein deficiencies often exhibit
a condition called kwashiorkor (KWASH-ee-OR-cor). The
arms and legs are emaciated for lack of muscle, the skin is shiny and
tight with edema, and the abdomen is swollen by ascites. Kwashiorkor
is an African word for a “deposed” or “displaced” child who is no longer
breast-fed. Symptoms appear when a child is weaned and placed on a
diet consisting mainly of rice or other cereals. Children with kwashiorkor
often die of diarrhea and dehydration.


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