Master Kwashiorkor with Picmonic for Medicine

With Picmonic, facts become pictures. We've taken what the science shows - image mnemonics work - but we've boosted the effectiveness by building and associating memorable characters, interesting audio stories, and built-in quizzing.


Recommended Picmonics

picmonic thumbnail
picmonic thumbnail
Food Allergies and Restrictions
picmonic thumbnail
Normal Electrolyte Lab Values
picmonic thumbnail
Tuberous Sclerosis


Kwashiorkor is described as a malnutrition state which occurs through severe protein deficiency. Patients develop edema and swollen bellies, as well as liver dysfunction from decreased apolipoprotein synthesis. Patients can become anemic due to decreased protein anabolism, while developing desquamative skin lesions.
Protein Deficiency
Protein-ribbon Hiding

Kwashiorkor develops from a severe deficiency in dietary protein. This disorder typically is seen in areas of famine or poor food supply. An example of this is seen when a mother weans a child from breastmilk, replacing the diet with starchy carbohydrates.

Swollen Belly
Swollen Belly

The classic example of kwashiorkor is a malnourished child with pitting edema of the lower limbs with a distended abdomen. The swelling of the gut occurs because there is an osmotic imbalance in the GI system, which is a consequence of protein deficiency. Retention of water leads to the swollen belly seen with this disorder.

MEALS of grain

The acronym, MEALS, helps to summarize kwashiorkor. It represents Malnutrition, Edema, Anemia, Liver malfunction and Skin lesions.


Malnutrition is associated with this disease, though it should be remembered that kwashiorkor symptoms arise specifically from protein deficiency.


Edema occurs in patients, typically in the abdomen, shins and ankles. This takes place because the lack of protein leads to an osmotic imbalance, leading to retention of water.


Decreased protein in the diet limits anabolic processes. Because of this, blood cell production may be impaired, slowly causing the development of anemia.

Liver Malfunction
Broken Liver

Due to a shortage of amino acids (from protein), there is impaired synthesis of VLDL apoprotein. This causes accumulation in the liver of unused lipids which would normally participate in lipoprotein synthesis, leading to fatty liver in patients.

Skin Lesions
Skin Leeches

Low protein intake leads to various skin lesions in patients who develop kwashiorkor. A common condition is ulcerating dermatosis, which is a type of desquamative rash.


Take the Kwashiorkor Quiz

Picmonic's rapid review multiple-choice quiz allows you to assess your knowledge.

It's worth every penny

Our Story Mnemonics Increase Mastery and Retention

Memorize facts with phonetic mnemonics

Unforgettable characters with concise but impactful videos (2-4 min each)

Memorize facts with phonetic mnemonics

Ace Your Medicine (MD/DO) Classes & Exams with Picmonic:

Over 1,820,000 students use Picmonic’s picture mnemonics to improve knowledge, retention, and exam performance.

Choose the #1 Medicine (MD/DO) student study app.

Picmonic for Medicine (MD/DO) covers information that is relevant to your entire Medicine (MD/DO) education. Whether you’re studying for your classes or getting ready to conquer the USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK, COMLEX Level 1, or COMLEX Level 2, we’re here to help.

Works better than traditional Medicine (MD/DO) flashcards.

Research shows that students who use Picmonic see a 331% improvement in memory retention and a 50% improvement in test scores.