200831 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Scurvy

    (Vitamin C Deficiency; Scorbutus)

    Definition

    Scurvy is a condition caused by an insufficient amount of vitamin C for a prolonged period of time. The condition causes weakness, anemia , and gingivitis . Scurvy is very rare in the United States and occurs most commonly in malnourished older adults and chronic alcoholics.
    Gingivitis
    Gingivitis
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    Causes

    Scurvy is typically caused by a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables or foods fortified with vitamin C.

    Risk Factors

    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
    The following factors increase your chance of developing scurvy:

    Symptoms

    Symptoms include:
    • Weakness
    • Paleness
    • Sunken eyes
    • Tender gums and/or tooth loss
    • Muscular pain
    • Reopening of old wounds or sores
    • Internal bleeding
    • Loss of appetite
    • Bruising easily
    • Weight loss; inability to gain weight
    • Diarrhea
    • Increased heart rate
    • Fever
    • Irritability
    • Aching and swelling in joints
    • Shortness of breath
    • Fatigue

    Diagnosis

    Scurvy 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.

    Treatment

    The 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

    Prevention

    To 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.

    RESOURCES

    American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org/

    Nutrition.gov http://www.nutrition.org/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index-eng.php/

    References

    Clemetson A. Shaken baby or scurvy? General Vaccine Issues. Vaccine Risk Awareness Network website. Available at: http://www.vran.org/vaccines/sbs/sbs-clemetson.htm . Accessed April 15, 2007.

    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/cgi/content/full/108/3/e55 . Accessed April 15, 2007.

    Revision Information

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