Other namesMoeller's disease, Cheadle's disease, scorbutus,[1] Barlow's disease, hypoascorbemia,[1] vitamin C deficiency
Scorbutic gums.jpg
Scorbutic gums, a symptom of scurvy. The triangle-shaped areas between the teeth show redness of the gums.
SymptomsWeakness, feeling tired, changes to hair, sore arms and legs, gum disease, easy bleeding[1][2]
CausesLack of vitamin C[1]
Risk factorsMental disorders, unusual eating habits, homelessness, alcoholism, substance use disorder, intestinal malabsorption, dialysis,[2] voyages at sea (historic)
Diagnostic methodBased on symptoms[2]
TreatmentVitamin C supplements,[1] diet that contains fruit and vegetables (notably citrus)
FrequencyRare (contemporary)[2]

Scurvy is a disease resulting from a lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid).[1] Early symptoms of deficiency include weakness, feeling tired and sore arms and legs.[1][2] Without treatment, decreased red blood cells, gum disease, changes to hair, and bleeding from the skin may occur.[1][3] As scurvy worsens there can be poor wound healing, personality changes, and finally death from infection or bleeding.[2]

It takes at least a month of little to no vitamin C in the diet before symptoms occur.[1][2] In modern times, scurvy occurs most commonly in people with mental disorders, unusual eating habits, alcoholism, and older people who live alone.[2] Other risk factors include intestinal malabsorption and dialysis.[2] While many animals produce their own vitamin C, humans and a few others do not.[2] Vitamin C is required to make the building blocks for collagen.[2] Diagnosis is typically based on physical signs, X-rays, and improvement after treatment.[2]

Treatment is with vitamin C supplements taken by mouth.[1] Improvement often begins in a few days with complete recovery in a few weeks.[2] Sources of vitamin C in the diet include citrus fruit and a number of vegetables, including red peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes.[2] Cooking often decreases the residual amount of vitamin C in foods.[2]

Scurvy is rare compared to other nutritional deficiencies.[2] It occurs more often in the developing world in association with malnutrition.[2] Rates among refugees are reported at 5 to 45 percent.[4] Scurvy was described as early as the time of ancient Egypt.[2] It was a limiting factor in long-distance sea travel, often killing large numbers of people.[5] During the Age of Sail, it was assumed that 50 percent of the sailors would die of scurvy on a major trip.[6] A Scottish surgeon in the Royal Navy, James Lind, is generally credited with proving that scurvy can be successfully treated with citrus fruit in 1753.[7] Nevertheless, it was not until 1795 that health reformers such as Gilbert Blane persuaded the Royal Navy to routinely give lemon juice to its sailors.[6][7]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Scurvy". GARD. 1 September 2016. Archived from the original on 26 January 2017. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Agarwal, A; Shaharyar, A; Kumar, A; Bhat, MS; Mishra, M (June 2015). "Scurvy in pediatric age group - A disease often forgotten?". Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma. 6 (2): 101–7. doi:10.1016/j.jcot.2014.12.003. PMC 4411344. PMID 25983516.
  3. ^ "Vitamin C". Office of Dietary Supplements. 11 February 2016. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  4. ^ Renzaho, Andre M. N. (2016). Globalisation, Migration and Health: Challenges and Opportunities. World Scientific. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-78326-889-4. Archived from the original on 8 September 2017.
  5. ^ Toler, Pamela D. (2012). Mankind: The Story of All of Us. Running Press. p. 296. ISBN 978-0762447176. Archived from the original on 8 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b Price, Catherine (2017). "The Age of Scurvy". Distillations. Vol. 3, no. 2. pp. 12–23. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Hemilä, Harri (29 May 2012). "A Brief History of Vitamin C and its Deficiency, Scurvy". Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014.