(Vitamin C Deficiency; Scorbutus)
DefinitionScurvy is a condition caused by an insufficient amount of vitamin C for a prolonged period of time. The condition causes weakness, impaired wound healing, anemia , and gingivitis . Scurvy is rare in the United States and occurs most commonly in malnourished older adults and chronic alcoholics.
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
CausesScurvy is typically caused by a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables or foods fortified with vitamin C.
Risk FactorsThe following factors increase your chance of developing scurvy:
- A poor diet, with little or no fruits and vegetables
- Little or no vitamin C in the diet
- Anorexia nervosa
- Poor dental hygiene
- Gastrointestinal diseases (such as malabsorption , inflammatory bowel disease , dyspepsia , Whipple's disease )
- A fad diet
- Self-imposed restrictive diets for weight loss or due to food allergies
- Sunken eyes
- Tender gums and/or tooth loss
- Muscular pain
- Reopening of old wounds or sores
- Loss of appetite
- Bruising easily
- Weight loss; inability to gain weight
- Increased heart rate
- Aching and swelling in joints
- Shortness of breath
DiagnosisScurvy can be diagnosed during a physical exam, based on an analysis of symptoms and diet. Your doctor may order a blood test to measure the level of vitamin C in the blood. To diagnose scurvy in infants and children, an x-ray may be done.
TreatmentThe treatment for scurvy is simple and effective. To eliminate symptoms and make a full recovery, increase vitamin C intake to recommended levels. You can increase vitamin C levels by:
- Eating a diet rich in citrus fruits, other fruits, and vegetables
- Taking vitamin C supplements
PreventionTo help reduce your chances of getting scurvy, take the following steps:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Get a sufficient amount of vitamin C, through diet and/or supplements.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
American Society for Nutrition
Dietitians of Canada
Vitamin C deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 27, 2010. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Weinstein M, Babyn P, Zlotkin S. An orange a day keeps the doctor away: scurvy in the year 2000. Pediatrics. 2001;108:e55. Pediatrics website. Available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/108/3/e55.full.html. Accessed December 22, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 12/2014
- Update Date: 12/20/2014
Many medical groups felt that early exposure to certain foods like peanuts increased a child's risk of developing food allergies. However, newer research including this trial suggest that early exposure may actually decrease the risk of developing food allergies.
Breastfeeding May Decrease the Risk of Childhood Obesity
Tonsillectomy May Reduce Number of Sore Throat Days in Children
Research Review Finds Little Support for Nearly Half of Medical Talk Show Recommendations