eMedinewS Editorial

Health Care 13 Comments

Starvation Effects: Anna on fast

  • Starvation induces protein and fat catabolism that leads to loss of cellular volume and atrophy of the heart, brain, liver, intestines, kidneys, and muscles.
  • Muscle wasting, including the myocardium, occurs during starvation in order to provide amino acids for production of glucose.
  • If food is suddenly withheld, the sensation of hunger gradually increases at first, becomes extreme, lasts for two or three days and slowly disappears. It is accompanied by a gnawing pain in the epigastrium, which is relieved on pressure. The pain may disappear with the hunger, but it is followed by a sensation of extreme weakness or faintness, which is both local in the stomach and general throughout the body. The sensation of thirst, on the contrary, when all fluid is withheld, persists until death or until the subject becomes insane or unconscious.
  • The body temperature begins to fall in the first day of the period of starvation, and continues falling, so that a loss of ten or more degrees below the normal of 98.60 F. may occur.
  • An adult may survive for about 10–12 days without food and water. If only water is being supplied this period may extend to 50–60 days.
  • In the final stages of starvation, adult humans experience a variety of neurological and psychiatric symptoms, including hallucinations and convulsions, as well as severe muscle pain and disturbances in heart rhythm.
  • Starved adults may lose as much as 50% of their normal body weight.
  • The very young person and the aged suffer most from starvation. Females, as they have more fats, can withstand it better than males; likewise, an obese than lean. Starvation effects are least felt so long as body temperature is maintained by clothing. Extremes of temperature accelerate the effects.
  • If the food has been stopped suddenly and completely, it causes an acute type of starvation. In first 30 to 48 hours, the starved person feels intense thirst and hunger pains. His face turns pale, mouth dry and parched, saliva thick, urine scanty and highly colored.
  • After 48 hours, signs of dehydration and emaciation set in. His breath is foul and offensive and body emits a disagreeable odor. His voice is weak, pulse feeble, BP low and has subnormal temperature. Apathy and pronounced fatigue having cadaveric looks. Hair becomes dry, lusterless and brittle. Nails become brittle and ridged. Skin may show increased pigmentation, ulceration and fissuring dryness. Edema may occur due to hypoproteinemia.
  • Eyes sink, pupils dilate, lips and tongue appear dry. Constipation is observed but no infective diarrhea or dysentery. Urine becomes scanty and turbid that may contain acetone, albumin and low chloride.
  • Intellect remains clear up to the end; sometimes convulsions and delirium precede death.

Dr KK Aggarwal
Editor in Chief