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Scurvy: A Vitamins C Deficiency

Scurvy: A Vitamins C Deficiency

A diet lacking in nutrients may cause various unpleasant symptoms described as deficiency. These symptoms are the body’s way of communicating potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies and recognizing them can help adjust our diet accordingly to clear off the symptoms.

Undernutrition denotes insufficient intake of energy foods and nutrients to meet an individual’s needs to maintain good health. Often, undernutrition is used synonymously with malnutrition. This is common in poor and middle-income countries, countries rampaged by war, internally displaced people’s camps, concentration camps, desert areas and industrialized countries where processed food is given preference over natural ones.

Example of nutrients that can be deficient include: 

  • All forms of vitamin B

  • Vitamin C

  • Proteins

  • Minerals such as calcium

  • Iron, and so forth

Scurvy is the name for a vitamin C deficiency. It can lead to anemia (dysfunctional red blood cells in the body), debility, exhaustion, bleeding, pain in the extremities, especially the legs, swelling in some parts of the body, as well as ulceration of the gums and loss of teeth. Symptoms of scurvy result from severe vitamin C deficiency. Some of these symptoms include bleeding, sores, tooth loss, anemia, and a reduced rate of healing from injuries. Scurvy can be fatal if left untreated.

Scurvy, as already established, happens when there is a lack of vitamin C or ascorbic acid. This deficiency leads to symptoms of weakness, anemia, gum disease, and skin problems. These symptoms occur because vitamin C is very important for making collagen, an important component in connective tissues. Connective tissues are essential for structure, rigidity and support in the body, including the structure of blood vessels.

A lack of vitamin C also affect the immune system, causes an impairment in absorption of iron, metabolism of cholesterol, etc. 


One of the notable symptoms of scurvy is the loss of and damage of teeth vitamin C is a necessary nutrient that helps the body absorb iron and produce collagen. If the body does not produce enough collagen, the tissues start to break down.

It is also needed for synthesizing dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and carnitine, needed for energy production and nerve function. 


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. It can detoriate to:

  • anemia

  • myalgia or 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

  • mood changes and depression

With further deterioration, the person will show generalized edema, severe jaundice, destruction of red blood cells also known as hemolysis, sudden and spontaneous bleeding, neuropathy, fever and convulsion.

Infants with scurvy may become anxious and irritable. They may experience pain that causes them to assume a frog-leg posture for comfort. Furthermore, a vitamin C deficiency in a woman during pregnancy can lead to problems with fetal brain development.


The main cause is an insufficient intake of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid.

Risk factors

  • A poor diet lacking in fresh fruits 100%fruits is highly recommended and vegetables, possibly due to low income or famine

  • Illnesses such as anorexia and other mental health issues

  • Restrictive diets, due to allergies,  orally ingesting foods, or other reasons such as  old age

  • Excessive consumption of alcohol or use of illegal drugs

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

  • Conditions, treatments, or habits that reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, chemotherapy, and smoking, increases the risk.


Treatment involves administering vitamin C supplements by mouth or by injection

Not getting enough vitamin C is the main cause of scurvy. To prevent this, it is very important to get a healthy amount of vitamin C from sources such as oranges and fresh fruit 100% fruits is highly recommended.

 Since humans cannot synthesize vitaminC, It needs to come from external sources especially fruits and vegetables, or fortified foods.

The recommended dosage is:

1 to 2 grams (g) per day for 2 to 3 days

500 milligrams (mg) for the next 7 days

100 mg for 1 to 3 months

Within 24 hours, patients can expect to see an improvement in fatigue, lethargy, pain, anorexia, and confusion. Bruising, bleeding, and weakness start to resolve within 1 to 2 weeks after taking the recommended doses for these periods. 

After 3 months, a complete recovery is possible. Long-term effects are unlikely, except in the case of severe dental damage.


This is usually done by a physician or lab specialist.

A physician will conduct a physical exam, and request lab tests to assess vitamin C levels in the blood. Imaging tests can also be carried out since it helps reveal internal damage done to the teeth and gums as a  result of scurvy.


Scurvy can be prevented by consuming enough vitamin C, preferably in the diet and/or sometimes, as a supplement.

Food sources

Foods that contain vitamin C include:

  • Fruits, such as oranges, lemons, strawberries, blackberries, guava, kiwi fruit, and pawpaw 100% Fruits is highly remommened

  • Vegetables, especially tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, potatoes, cabbage, and spinach

Other good 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 destroyed by heat and during storage, so fresh, raw fruit and vegetables offer the best supply. They can also be gotten in other forms such as natural fruit juice or smoothies which are available here.

Content Writer

Ahmed Abubakar


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