Scurvy: Overview

Scurvy, also known as vitamin C deficiency, is a nutritional disease that refers to a lack of vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) in the diet. It occurs due to a prolonged severe dietary vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy is a rare disease mainly associated with socioeconomic status. It can also occur due to unavailability of food or in patients who have intestinal malabsorption problems from cancer or kidney diseases.

The scurvy disease is often seen in children aged six to twelve months, whose nutrition is usually deficient in fruits or vegetables. Children who eat poorly, have a mental illness, or have physical disabilities are also vulnerable to developing scurvy.

Vitamin C deficiency is commonly observed in older adults and may be responsible for their serious ill-health. Older individuals may not eat certain foods or may eat them in less quantity leading to this condition. Symptoms such as impaired wound healing, bleeding, swollen gums, ecchymosis, anaemia, weakness and depression are seen among older people.

Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin. It is an antioxidant and a vital cofactor for collagen biosynthesis, dietary iron absorption, carnitine and catecholamine metabolism. It is necessary to form collagen, boost the immune system and maintain healthy skin, connective tissues, blood vessel walls, bone, and teeth. It facilitates wound healing and recovery from burns.

Additionally, excess intake of vitamin C can cause the following conditions:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • Urinary calculi
  • Iron overload
  • Urine acidification
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Sleeping disorders

Symptoms of Scurvy

Vitamin C deficiency symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of sickness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Weak bones
  • Painful joints and muscles
  • Dry and damaged skin
  • Easy bruising of the skin
  • Slow healing of wounds
  • Bleeding gums
  • Dry splitting hair
  • Anaemia
  • Corkscrew-shaped body hair
  • Eye dryness
  • Irritation in the eye
  • Poor Immunity
  • Tooth loss
  • Weight gain
  • Spoon-shaped looking fingernails

When to see a doctor?

Consult your general physician if you experience any of the above symptoms. Many other health problems can also cause these symptoms. Therefore, your doctor may recommend a few diagnostic tests to check for other health conditions and vitamin C deficiency.


Causes

The scurvy disease is caused due to the consumption of insufficient amounts of vitamin C in the diet for nearly three months.

A diet lacking fresh fruits and vegetables might lead to vitamin C insufficiency. Furthermore, vitamin C is sensitive to heat so cooking might reduce its nutritional benefits in food.


Risk Factors of Scurvy

  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Using illegal drugs
  • Having neurological conditions
  • Getting radiation and chemotherapy
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Dieting - eating only selected foods
  • Being undernourished as a result of poor care
  • Frequently avoiding fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Smoking
  • Eating disorder

Complications of Scurvy

  • Jaundice
  • Haemorrhage and its consequences
  • Cardiovascular diseases

Diagnosis

Scurvy diagnosis includes medical history, physical examination and blood test. Treatment is eating vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, vegetables & vitamin C supplements.

Your doctor will ask you for your medical history and perform a physical examination to diagnose the symptoms.

The doctor will inquire about dietary and other lifestyle habits in which an inadequate amount of fresh fruits and vegetables are identified. The disease is also identified by observing reducing symptoms after enriching your diet with vitamin C supplements, fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Blood tests: Scurvy disease is confirmed by a blood test showing ascorbic acid levels < 11 µmol/L
  • Radiologic findings can also reveal internal damage to the bones and check for impaired bone growth in children

Treatment

Treatment for scurvy disease depends on identifying the primary cause and treating it.

Vitamin C deficiency treatment includes eating vitamin C-rich foods such as consuming more citrus fruits and vegetables. By taking oral vitamin C supplements or other multivitamin tablets.

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid can be obtained from citrus fruits mainly lemons, grapefruit, blackcurrants, limes, oranges and kiwi. It is also available by eating vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, capsicum, green and red peppers, spinach, sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, sweet potatoes, and fresh milk and fish.


Do's and Don’ts

Follow do's and don'ts for scurvy disease to avoid its symptoms. Vitamin C is important for normal body functions and is available in foods and as vitamin C supplements.

Scurvy disease is a severe form of vitamin C deficiency. Usually, it is uncommon as most people easily get adequate amounts of vitamin C from their diet. Its symptoms include tiredness, irritability, swollen and bleeding gums, joint pain, tooth loss, bruising of the skin, etc. This disease is treatable by incorporating citrus fruits and vegetables in meals or by taking vitamin C tablets.

Do’s Don’ts
Regular dental check-ups Consume alcohol
Regular health check-ups Smoke
Take vitamin C supplements Use illegal drugs
Adapt healthy lifestyle habits Lead a sedentary lifestyle
Eat a nutritious diet Eat unhealthy foods

Follow the aforementioned do's and don'ts for scurvy disease to prevent its occurrence, symptoms, and related complications. By consuming a nutritious diet or vitamin C tablets, it is possible to avoid vitamin C deficiency and stay healthy.


Care at Medicover Hospitals

At Medicover hospitals, our highly experienced doctors comprising general physicians and nutritionists provide the best treatment for scurvy disease.

At Medicover hospitals, we have the most trusted healthcare team consisting of general physicians and nutritionists to provide the best management for scurvy disease. Our team adopts a multi-faceted approach to manage vitamin C deficiency diseases and related complications with the active participation of medical experts from different specialities. We provide world-class healthcare services in all our departments at affordable prices to bring high-quality treatment outcomes and satisfactory experiences.

Citations

Scurvy
Scurvy -
Vitamin C Deficiency
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