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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 6, 2023.



occurs when you do not get enough calories or nutrients to keep you healthy. Nutrients include protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

Common signs and symptoms of malnutrition:

  • Irritable (bad mood) and tired
  • Slower growth than normal, or no growth (in children)
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Slow wound healing and an increase in infections
  • Bone or joint pain, weak muscles, or sunken temples
  • Brittle and spooned nails
  • Dry, scaly skin or change in skin color
  • Change of hair color, or hair loss
  • Bloated abdomen and swelling in other parts of the body

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • You have pain in your chest, back, neck, jaw, stomach, or down one or both arms.
  • You have shortness of breath.

Call your doctor if:

  • You lose a large amount of weight within a short amount of time.
  • You feel depressed, confused, tired, irritable, and you do not feel like eating.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


depends on what caused your malnutrition. You may need medicine to treat a health problem that is causing your malnutrition.

  • Increased calories and nutrients will be needed. A dietitian may help you plan larger, healthy meals. You may need to eat or drink a nutrition supplement if you have trouble eating the right kinds and amounts of food.
  • Vitamins and minerals may be needed to replace vitamins and minerals your body needs. They may be given in your IV, as a shot, or as a pill.
  • Appetite stimulants are medicines that help improve your appetite so you will want to eat more.


  • Try eating more often. If you have trouble eating larger meals, eat small meals throughout the day. You may need to include snacks between meals.
  • Find support. If you cannot buy or prepare the right kinds of foods, talk to your healthcare provider. Ask for information about community programs that can help you.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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