Scurvy is a condition caused by an insufficient amount of vitamin C for a prolonged period of time. The condition causes weakness, impaired wound healing, anemia, and gingivitis. In children, it can cause bone loss and fractures. Scurvy is rare in the United States and occurs most commonly in malnourished older adults and chronic alcoholics.
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Scurvy is typically caused by a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables or foods fortified with vitamin C.
The following factors increase your chance of developing scurvy:
Scurvy may be suspected during a physical exam, based on an analysis of symptoms and diet. A doctor will order a blood test to measure the level of vitamin C in the blood to confirm the diagnosis. Infants and children may have x-rays done to look for specific problems from scurvy, such as bone disease.
The treatment for scurvy is simple and effective. To eliminate symptoms and make a full recovery, begin vitamin C replacement until symptoms resolve and then take recommended amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C levels can be increased by:
To help reduce your chances of getting scurvy, take the following steps:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
American Society for Nutrition
Vitamin C deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115249/Vitamin-C-deficiency. Updated April 27, 2010. Accessed November 7, 2017.
Weinstein M, Babyn P, Zlotkin S. An orange a day keeps the doctor away: scurvy in the year 2000. Pediatrics. 2001 Sep;108(3):E55.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN Last Updated: 12/20/2014