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Malnutrition as a Secondary Symptom
10 October 2011
Deutsches Aerzteblatt International
Failure to thrive in childhood is often the result of an underlying organic disease. In the current edition of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2011; 108: 642-9), Walter Nützenadel provides an overview of diagnoses and treatment options.
Symptoms such as insufficient weight and loss of weight caused by a lack of nutrients do not affect children in developing countries alone: they also affect 2% to 24% of patients in pediatric hospitals in developed countries. They can therefore impair not only physical development, but also psychomotor and intellectual maturation and defenses against infection. Because of this, early intervention is recommended.
The severity of malnutrition must be determined in order for suitable treatment to be provided. Accurate diagnosis of the underlying disease is also needed, as failure to thrive is often a symptom of a gastrointestinal or neurological disease. Therapy should focus on treatment of the underlying condition. If malnutrition is severe, nutritional treatment may also be used.