Emaciation is defined as extreme weight loss and thinness due to a loss of subcutaneous fat (the fatty, or adipose tissue beneath the skin) and muscle throughout the body.
It affects human beings and animals; one that is emaciated could be described as “wasting away” or being “gaunt.” Emaciation is caused by severe malnourishment and starvation. Emaciation is a predominant symptom of malnourishment, a basic component of poverty and famine that also occurs with diseases that interfere with the digestive system and appetite, other systems, and eating disorders. These include nutrient deficiency disorders, diseases with prolonged fever and infection, malignant diseases, parasitic infections that can result from contamination,anorexia nervosa and other conditions. The malnourishment associated with emaciation has been referred to as “inanition”, while infection by parasites has been described as “adulteration”.Treatment of emaciation includes gradual renourishment with a slow increase of daily caloric intake to help rebuild tissues and regain weight. Rest, and emotional and psychological therapy and support may be included.
In humans, the overall physical appearance of emaciation includes a thinning of the limbs, upper body and buttocks to an almost skeletal-seeming state with an apparent absence of fat and muscle tone. The skin is thin, dry and translucent in some areas of the body, to the point that veins beneath the skin are somewhat visible. The face is thin and drawn with a hopeless, vacant and distressed demeanor; the eye sockets are sunken, giving the eyes a bulging appearance. The scalp is bony with dry, withering hair that is lacking. On the torso, the collar bone, chest bone and ribs are quite pronounced; the stomach is bloated, which indicates gastrointestinal distress associated with nutritional depletion. The mouth and tongue may be excessively dry, or moist with the tongue thickly coated; there is usually stronghalitosis, or foul breath.