Modern cases of scurvy are rare, particularly in places where enriched bread and cereals are available, but it can however affect people who do not absorb sufficient vitamin C.

Fast facts about scurvy:

Below are some important tips about scurvy.

  • Symptoms of scurvy result from severe vitamin C deficiency.
  • They include bleeding sores, tooth loss, anemia, and a reduced rate of healing for injuries.
  • It can be deadly if left untreated.
  • Scurvy is treatable with oral or intravenous vitamin C supplements.

Symptoms Of Scurvy

One of the important symptoms of scurvy is the loss of and damage to teeth. Vitamin C is a vital nutrient that helps the body absorb iron and produce collagen.

If the body does not produce sufficient collagen, tissues will start to break down. It is also needed for synthesizing dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and carnitine, needed for energy production.

Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency can start to appear after 8 to 12 weeks. Early signs include a loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, irritability, and lethargy.

there may be signs of:

  • myalgia, or pain, including bone pain
  • swelling, or edema
  • petechiae, or small red spots resulting from bleeding under the skin
  • corkscrew hairs
  • gum disease and loss of teeth
  • poor wound healing
  • shortness of breath
  • anemia
  • mood changes, and depression

With time, the body will show signs of generalized edema, severe jaundice, loss of red blood cells, known as hemolysis, spontaneous bleeding, neuropathyfever, and convulsions. It can be fatal.

Infants with scurvy will become anxious and irritable. They may experience pain that causes them to assume a frog-leg posture for comfort.

There may also be subperiosteal hemorrhage, a type of bleeding that occurs at the ends of the long bones.

Animal studies have confirmed that vitamin C deficiency in a woman during pregnancy can lead to problems with fetal brain development.

Causes

The main cause is inadequate consumption of vitamin C or ascorbic acid.

Risk factors

Humans cannot synthesize vitamin C. It requires to come from outside sources, particularly fruits and vegetables, or fortified foods.

A deficiency may result from:

  • a poor diet lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables, possibly due to low income or famine
  • illnesses such as anorexia and other mental health issues
  • restrictive diets, due to allergies, difficulty orally ingesting foods or other reasons
  • older age
  • excessive consumption of alcohol or use of illegal drugs

Late or unsuccessful weaning of infants can also lead to scurvy.

Prevention

Scurvy can be prevented by consuming enough vitamin C, optionally in the diet, but sometimes as a supplement.

The United States (U.S.) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) advise the following consumption of vitamin C:

  • 7 to 12 months: 50 mg
  • 1 to 3 years: 15 mg
  • 4 to 8 years: 25 mg
  • 9 to 13 years: 45 mg
  • Up to 6 months: 40 mg, as normally supplied through breastfeeding
  • 14 to 18 years: 75 mg for men and 65 mg for women
  • 19 years and above: 90 mg for men, 75 mg and women

During pregnancy, women should consume 85 mg of vitamin C, rising to 120 mg while breastfeeding.

Smokers need 35 mg more than nonsmokers every day.

Food sources

Foods that contain vitamin C include:

  • fruits, such as oranges, lemons, strawberries, blackberries, guava, kiwi fruit, and papaya
  • vegetables, especially tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, and spinach

Other great sources are paprika, liver, and oysters

One medium orange contains 70 mg of vitamin C, and a green bell pepper contains 60 mg.

Ascorbic acid can be damaged by heat and during storage, so fresh, raw fruit and vegetables offer the best supply.