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Scurvy – causes, side effects and treatments at

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by

Scurvy is a disease that is caused by a vitamin C (ascorbic acid) deficiency. It is linked to several symptoms like anemia and gum disease.

The onset of scurvy often depends on how long an individual can deplete their limited stores of ascorbic acid. Since the human body can’t produce vitamin C, an individual with a poor diet may develop scurvy.

If a person doesn’t regularly consume vitamin C-rich foods, they can experience its symptoms within four weeks. When scurvy is developed in early childhood, the patient may suffer from musculoskeletal problems.

The disease is rarely reported in the U.S. Most patients who develop scurvy are older adults who aren’t getting proper nutrition. Scurvy is also called scorbutus or vitamin C deficiency.

Known symptoms and risk factors of scurvy

The side effects of scurvy usually include:

  • Anemia
  • Bleeding, soft, and swollen gums/gum disease (teeth may also fall out)
  • Bumps under the skin and near the muscles
  • Constantly feeling irritable and sad
  • Diarrhea
  • General weakness
  • Red or blue spots on the skin (especially on the shins)
  • Severe joint or leg pain
  • Skin hemorrhages
  • Skin that bruises easily

Risk factors for scurvy may include:

  • Addiction – Individuals who have a drug or alcohol addiction may develop scurvy.
  • Age – Babies and young children can develop scurvy if they don’t get enough vitamins. Very elderly people may also develop the disease, especially if they are unable to cook or have trouble maintaining a proper diet.
  • Being on an unusual or restrictive “fad” diet – These diets don’t usually include foods rich in vitamin C.
  • Having a poor diet and being pregnant or breastfeeding – Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding require more vitamin C.
  • Having a poor diet and smoking – Smoking hinders the body from absorbing vitamin C from food.
  • Having a severe digestive condition – This includes Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • Loss of appetite – Individuals who undergo chemotherapy or have an eating disorder, like anorexia, may develop scurvy.

Body systems harmed by scurvy

Scurvy may cause the following complications:

  • Anemia, heart attack, or death – These complications may occur among individuals of all ages who have scurvy.
  • Stunted bone growth – This usually occurs in babies and young children with scurvy. The growth of the long bones in their arms and legs may become stunted since a vitamin C deficiency makes the growth plates in the bones harden prematurely.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent scurvy

Since scurvy is caused by a vitamin C deficiency, the following foods or nutrients can help prevent scurvy or address its side effects:

  • Foods rich in vitamin C – Sources include cantaloupes, kiwi fruit, grapefruit, green leafy vegetables (like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and green peppers), oranges, potatoes, sweet lemon, and tomatoes.
  • Gooseberries – Dry some gooseberries and grind them into a powder. The powder can be mixed with some powdered sugar and a spoonful can be consumed twice daily. This cure can help restore your biochemical balance.
  • Lemon juice – Lemon juice is full of ascorbic acid. Combine the juice of one lemon with a glass of lukewarm water and honey. Mix and drink the lemon juice twice daily until the symptoms abate.

Treatments, management plans for scurvy

Treatment and management plans for scurvy includes:

  • Consuming more vitamin C-rich foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Taking vitamin C supplements, if necessary.

The majority of patients with scurvy can recover after 48 hours and they can make a full recovery in about two weeks.

Where to learn more


Scurvy is a disease that is caused by a vitamin C (ascorbic acid) deficiency.

The side effects of scurvy usually include anemia, gum disease, general weakness, severe joint or leg pain, and skin hemorrhages.

Scurvy may cause complications like anemia, heart attack, stunted bone growth, or even death.

Foods rich in vitamin C, gooseberries, and lemon juice can help prevent scurvy or address its side effects.

Treatment and management plans for scurvy includes consuming more vitamin C-rich foods and taking vitamin C supplements.

The majority of patients with scurvy can recover after 48 hours and they can make a full recovery in about two weeks.

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