Kwashiorkor is an acute
Acute (medicine)
In medicine, an acute disease is a disease with either or both of:# a rapid onset, as in acute infection# a short course ....

 form of childhood protein-energy malnutrition
Protein-energy malnutrition
Protein-energy malnutrition refers to a form of malnutrition where there is inadequate protein intake.Types include:* Kwashiorkor...

 characterized by edema
Edema or oedema ; both words from the Greek , oídēma "swelling"), formerly known as dropsy or hydropsy, is an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin or in one or more cavities of the body that produces swelling...

, irritability, anorexia
Anorexia (symptom)
Anorexia is the decreased sensation of appetite...

, ulcerating dermatoses, and an enlarged liver with fatty infiltrates. The presence of edema caused by poor nutrition defines kwashiorkor. Kwashiorkor was thought to be caused by insufficient protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 consumption but with sufficient calorie intake, distinguishing it from marasmus
Marasmus is a form of severe protein-energy malnutrition characterized by energy deficiency.A child with marasmus looks emaciated. Body weight may be reduced to less than 80% of the average weight that corresponds to the height . Marasmus occurrence increases prior to age 1, whereas kwashiorkor...

. More recently, micronutrient
Micronutrients are nutrients required by humans and other living things throughout life in small quantities to orchestrate a whole range of physiological functions, but which the organism itself cannot produce. For people, they include dietary trace minerals in amounts generally less than 100...

 and antioxidant
An antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons or hydrogen from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals. In turn, these radicals can start chain reactions. When...

 deficiencies have come to be recognized as contributory.