What is scurvy?

Scurvy is a disease that affects the blood vessels, skin, and the body’s healing process, resulting in anemia, hemorrhaging of the skin, and gum disease (gingivitis). Scurvy occurs when your diet is deficient in vitamin C. Scurvy is uncommon in the United States, and those most at risk are older adults and alcoholics suffering from malnutrition.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning the body neither produces nor stores the vitamin. To maintain good health, vitamin C must be replenished frequently. If your diet is lacking in fruits and vegetables, you may be at risk of an inadequate level of vitamin C. Conditions that cause malnutrition may be associated with scurvy.

You may find that the signs and symptoms of scurvy are constant or occur only periodically. The types of symptoms associated with scurvy vary among individuals. Some people with scurvy have only mild symptoms, such as fatigue, while others may develop severe anemia and recurrent infections.

Fortunately, scurvy can be readily and effectively treated with nutritional supplements to resolve deficiencies in vitamin C. Changes in your lifestyle can also reduce your risk of developing scurvy, include limiting alcohol intake, eating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, not smoking, and always taking all medications and supplements as prescribed.

In some cases, if left untreated, scurvy can lead to severe vitamin-deficiency anemia that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms, including difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, fainting or change in level of consciousness or lethargy, generalized swelling, muscle pain, uncontrollable bleeding, or rapid heart rate (tachycardia).

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for scurvy but mild symptoms worsen, recur, are persistent, or give you any reason for concern.


What are the symptoms of scurvy?

Scurvy is a condition resulting from too little vitamin C in the body; it affects the normal function of the nerves, digestive system, and skin. Scurvy may result in a range of symptoms, and these can vary in intensity among individuals.

Common symptoms of scurvy

You may experience scurvy symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times, any of these common symptoms can... Read more about scurvysymptoms


What causes scurvy?

Vitamin C, also referred to ascorbic acid, is water soluble, meaning the body does not produce or store the vitamin, so it must be replenished frequently to ensure good health. Scurvy develops as a result of inadequate intake of vitamin C. If your diet is lacking in a variety of fruits and vegetables, you could be at risk of developing scurvy. Poorly balanced and inadequate diets can lead to ma... Read more about scurvycauses


How is scurvy treated?

If you suspect you may be suffering from scurvy, it is vital that you seek medical attention. To determine whether you have scurvy, your health care professional will ask you questions related to the disease, take a blood sample, and possibly recommend that you undergo diagnostic testing. It is very important to follow your treatment plan for scurvy precisely, and to take all medications as ins... Read more about scurvytreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 0201 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Food, Nutrition and Diet