All About Scurvy – Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors and Treatment


Scurvy is a rare disease, wherein a person has  general weakness, gum disease, anemia and skin bleeding. The reason behind this affliction well known to most of  us – the deficiency of vitamin C. It took long time for the cause of this disease to be known. The sea voyages used to result in  their sailors suffering from bleeding of gums; and  scurvy was blamed for half the deaths at the oceans.

All About Scurvy

Much later, when the cause was discovered the ships were told to carry loads of citrus fruits to prevent scurvy. Fortunately, the treatment of scurvy is relatively easier than that of most other ailments.

Symptoms of Scurvy

Loss of appetite, mild depression, unable to gain weight despite eating adequate food, diarrhea, breathing fast and slight fever are the early manifestations.

At a later stage one starts getting irritated and  angry at the  slightest of provocation. Legs start aching, there can be pseudo paralysis, which means one finds it difficult to move. At this stage the legs and arms may also swell.

But the most common symptom of scurvy still remains the bleeding from the mouth, gums and the nose. Unhealthy gums can lead to losing the teeth. There is one more symptom of scurvy which  may not be diagnosed. This symptom manifests in the dry hair which start curling, and even the skin may get dry and itchy.

The infants may have abnormal and stunted growth. It can even be fatal in extreme cases.

Cause of Scurvy

Foremost cause of scurvy  is the  lack of vitamin C in the diet.  Lack of fresh food, even malnutrition and famine, wrong eating habits and not ingesting the food properly are some other causes.

Risk Factors

It is a common perception that scurvy is a rare disease and it will not affect us, however, it has been seen that often people ignore their dietary requirement. All those who are unable to take vitamin C are at risk. Certain groups of people have higher risk. They are : the poverty stricken people, malnourished people, and elderly. There is one more category at risk and they are those who consume alcohol or drugs.

Some adults who consume fad diet can also suffer from scurvy, even fussy eaters also have a good chance of being caught by scurvy.

Risk Factors


Dietary Modifications

Here goes the list of food items that are rich in vitamin C: all types of citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits and sweet lime. In addition to the citrus fruits, vitamin C is also found in tomatoes, green chillies and green peppers, mustard leaves (sarson  saag), spinach,  cabbage, sweet potato (shakarkandi) and sprouts.  Babies are usually treated with orange juice.

Dietary Modifications

Supplements and Medications

The good point about scurvy is that it can be reversed with intake of vitamin C. Doctors will prescribe vitamin C supplements. The patient can be given pills and even injections are also in vogue.

It is seen that with proper treatment the patient starts feeling better in about a week and may even get out of the problem completely within a week or two.

Supplements and Medications

M Nandini