Dystrophy, Alimentary

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dystrophy, Alimentary


(hunger edema, starvation edema, famine dropsy), a morbid condition that develops as a result of insufficient intake of nutritional substances (especially of whole protein)—that is, with starvation.

The term “alimentary dystrophy” was proposed by doctors working in Leningrad during the fascist German blockade of 1941-42. Exacerbating factors in the development of the condition are cold, physical and psychological overexertion, and infectious diseases.

Alimentary dystrophy is found in dry and edematous forms. In the first case emaciation progresses rapidly; in the latter, edemas of the entire body develop gradually against a background of emaciation. Complications such as pneumonia, dysentery, and tuberculosis commonly accompany the condition, and symptoms of avitaminosis may be observed against the dystrophic background (in particular, deficiencies of vitamins C, B1, and B2).

Alimentary dystrophy is manifested in weakness, fatigability, emaciation (involving loss of up to 50 percent of total body weight), apathy, and muscular aches. Frequent urination is sometimes one of the early signs of the disease. The body temperature drops. Cardiovascular activity changes (heart contractions slow down and arterial pressure decreases). The face becomes edematous, the skin is dry and desquamative, and the hair falls out. As the disease develops, vomiting and nausea become more frequent. An indifferent attitude toward surroundings, apathy, and weakened memory and attention are manifest. Excitation is less frequent and hallucinations and acute psychoses may occur. Menstruation usually stops in women.

Treatment includes release from all work, a well-balanced diet with five or six meals a day of easily assimilable vitamin-enriched foods of high nutritional value and large quantities of animal proteins, infusion of glucose and sodium chloride solutions, and blood or plasma transfusion. Pepsin and hydrochloric acid are used in treating diarrhea.


Svechnikov, V. A. Bolezn’ golodaniia (alimentarnaia distrofiia). Leningrad, 1947.
Alimentarnaia distrofiia v blokirovannom Leningrade: Sb. statei. Edited by M. V. Chernorutskii. Leningrad, 1947.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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