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Malnutrition treatment starts with identifying the origins of the malnutrition to provide complete treatment while supplementing the patient's diet to address immediate nutritional deficiencies. Care providers may offer nutritional supplements, counseling, and advice, along with medications to treat underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the malnutrition. It may be necessary to work with a specialty consultant who focuses on issues like eating disorders or disorders of the gastrointestinal tract to get the most complete and appropriate malnutrition treatment.
Patients with malnutrition can have symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, dull skin, and weakness. A doctor can perform an evaluation and may request some tests to determine the patient's nutritional status. In an emergency, the doctor may recommend fluids and the start of immediate high calorie supplementation to treat a patient at risk of starvation. Other forms of malnutrition are caused by nutritional deficiencies, where the patient gets enough calories but not the right nutrients, and these may be manageable with supplements.
As the doctor addresses the immediate crisis, the patient may start to feel better. This can allow the doctor to explore the cause of the malnutrition, such as a metabolic disease, eating disorder, or poor understanding of nutritional needs. With the cause in mind, the doctor can recommend the next stage in malnutrition treatment. Some patients need hospitalization to treat complex disorders and could also require medications, counseling, surgery, and other treatment options.
In the case of a patient with a condition like Crohn's disease, the disease may be extremely advanced by the time it is caught. These patients could need to stay in the hospital to receive steroids and other medications. These will address the inflammation and help the patient feel more comfortable. As the gut recovers, the patient's nutritional absorption should improve, and this may address the malnutrition. Once stabilized, the patient may need additional treatment to prevent future flareups and control the disease more effectively.
Patients with eating disorders and those who do not understand their nutritional needs may need counseling. A counselor can work through a variety of topics with the patient during malnutrition treatment. These can include issues like how to manage an eating disorder for life and how to balance the need for proper nutrition with a busy schedule and other pressures that may make it hard to adequately provide for nutritional needs. Some medical offices and hospitals have outpatient counseling programs to provide ongoing nutritional support to patients on an as-needed basis after initial malnutrition treatment and recovery.