Scurvy | Treatment of vitamin C deficiency | Nutrition


What is scurvy?

The scurvy is called severe vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is an important nutrient. It plays a role in the development and function of many anatomical structures and processes, including:

  • Adequate formation of protein collagen helps to give structure and stability to the connective tissue of the body.
  • Cholesterol and protein metabolism
  • Iron absorption
  • Antioxidant action
  • Wound healing
  • Creation of neurotransmitters like dopamine and epinephrine.

Modern cases of scurvy are very rare, especially in areas where rich bread and cereals are available, but it can affect people who do not get enough vitamin C.

What are the symptoms of scurvy?

Scurvy is a condition caused by lack of vitamin C in the body; It affects the normal functioning of the nerves, the digestive system, and the skin. Scurvy can cause several symptoms, and their severity can vary from person to person.

Common characteristics of scurvy

You may experience scurvy symptoms daily or just one time. Sometimes any of these common symptoms can be serious:

  • Depression
  • Dry and split hair
  • Dry mouth and dry eyes
  • Dry, rough, and flaky skin
  • Bleeding or bruising easily
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent infections
  • Frequent nostrils
  • Swelling and bleeding in the gums
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Poor development of tooth enamel
  • Wounds or bruises that heal slowly
  • Vasomotor instability
  • Symptoms that indicate a serious condition

In some cases, if left untreated, scurvy can lead to severe vitamin deficiency anemia, which should be evaluated immediately in an emergency. Seek medical attention immediately if you or someone with you develops any of these serious symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Fainting or changes in the level of consciousness or lethargy.
  • Fast heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Uncontrolled bleeding

Causes of scurvy

Your body cannot make vitamin C, which means you need to take in all the vitamin C your body needs through food or drink or by taking a supplement.

Most people with scurvy do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables or do not have a healthy diet. Scurvy affects many people in developing countries. Recent public health surveys have shown that the reliable source is much higher than previously thought in developed countries, especially in high-risk population segments. Medical conditions and lifestyle habits also increase the risk of this condition.

Risk factors

  • Child or older than 65 years
  • Drink daily
  • Use of illegal drugs
  • Living alone
  • Mandatory or specified diet
  • Decreased access to nutritious low-income food
  • Homeless or refugee
  • Live in areas with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Eating disorders or mood swings with fear of food.
  • Nervous conditions
  • Disabilities
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis
  • Digestive or metabolic conditions
  • Immune conditions
  • The cultural diet is full of carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and corn.
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Of smoking
  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
  • Dialysis and kidney failure

Diagnosis of scurvy

If you suspect you have scurvy, your doctor will ask you questions about your dietary history, look for signs of the condition, and order a blood test. A blood test is used to check the levels of vitamin C in the blood serum. Generally, the serum level of vitamin C in people with scurvy is less than 11 mol / L.

Treatment for scurvy

Vitamin C is found naturally in most fruits and vegetables. It is often added to juices, cereals, and even snacks. If you suspect that you have fair skin, eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is the easiest way to treat this condition.

Oral vitamin C supplements are also widely available, and the vitamin is included in most multivitamins. If symptoms persist after a few days of dietary changes, talk to your doctor.

For severe and chronic scurvy, your doctor may recommend high doses of vitamin C supplements taken by mouth over several weeks or months. There is no consensus on a specific treatment dose for severe itching. In these cases, a doctor may prescribe high doses of oral vitamin C supplements for several weeks or longer.

Vitamin C supplements are given orally or by injection during treatment.

Recommended dose:

  • 1 to 2 grams (g) per day for 2 to 3 days
  • 500 mg (mg) for the next 7 days
  • 100 mg for 1 to 3 months

Within 24 hours, patients can see improvement in fatigue, lethargy, pain, anorexia, and confusion. Injuries, bleeding, and weakness begins to heal in 1 to 2 weeks.

After 3 months, a full recovery is possible. Except in the case of severe dental damage, long-term effects are unlikely.


Most people begin to recover from scurvy very quickly after starting treatment. Within a day or two of treatment, you should see an improvement in some symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Humour changes

Other symptoms may take a few weeks for the next treatment to improve, including:

  • Weakness
  • Bleeding
  • Injuries
  • Jaundice

Possible scurvy problems

If you are diagnosed with SRV, you and your healthcare provider can help reduce the risk of serious complications by carefully following a treatment plan designed specifically for you. Scurvy problems:

  • Anaemia and its consequences, including shortness of breath and rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Easily injured
  • An increase in infections
  • Joint pain, discomfort
  • Decreased ability to heal the wound


Scurvy can be prevented by taking an adequate amount of vitamin C in the diet, but sometimes in supplements.

The United States Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) recommends the following intake of vitamin C:

  • Up to 6 months: 40 mg, usually given during lactation
  • 7 to 12 months: 50 mg
  • 1 to 3 years: 15 mg
  • 4 to 8 years: 25 mg
  • 9 to 13 years: 45 mg
  • 14 to 18 years: 75 mg for men and 65 mg for women
  • 19 years and older: 90 mg for men, 75 mg and women

During pregnancy, women should take 85 mg of vitamin C, which increases to 120 mg during lactation.

Smokers need 35 mg more per day than non-smokers.

Food resources

Foods rich in vitamin C:

  • Fruits such as oranges, lemons, strawberries, blackberries, guava, kiwi, and papaya
  • Vegetables, especially tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, potatoes, cabbage, and spinach
  • Chili, liver, and oysters are other good sources.
  • A medium orange contains 70 mg of vitamin C and a green pepper 60 mg.
  • Ascorbic acid is destroyed during heating and storage, so fresh and raw fruits and vegetables provide the best supply.
  • Vitamin C supplements are also available for purchase in health food stores or online.
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