Scurvy is a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C in the body. Although it might seem like a historical ailment associated with sailors of the past, it still occurs today in certain populations where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is limited. In this article, we will delve into the details of scurvy, its historical context, causes, symptoms, treatment, prevention, impact on health, current trends, and more.

Normal requirement of vitamin C is 60mg to 70mg daily. Now-a-days Vitamin C is also used as an antioxidant.

It is an important antioxidant and is involved in various oxidation-reduction reactions. Human being along with sone other animals can not synthesise Vitamin C from glucose.

What is Scurvy?

Scurvy is a condition caused by a lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in the diet. Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, a protein necessary for the formation of connective tissue and wound healing. Without an adequate intake of vitamin C, the body is unable to produce collagen properly, leading to various health problems.

What causes the disease scurvy

The primary cause of scurvy is a prolonged deficiency of vitamin C in the diet. This deficiency can occur due to:

If supply of Ascorbic acid is completely cut off in human being, it will take about 6 months time for scurvy to appear as complete depletion of body store occurs by this time.

In older days sea wreack was the important cause. Oral cotraceptives may decrease the tissue store of Vitamin C

  • Prolonged consuption of dry fruits and vegetables lead to deficiency of Ascorbic acid.
  • Limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Low intake due to dietary inadequacy, (Poor dietary choices)
  • Certain medical conditions that interfere with the absorption of vitamin C
  • Chronic renal failure may be associated with Vitamin C deficiency.

Symptoms of Scurvy

Symptoms of scurvy can vary in severity and may include:

  • Weakness and debility occur early. Patient may appear malingerer in absence of clinical signs.
  • Folliculosis may occur. Hair follicles are raised above the skin and perifollicular haemorrhage may develop.
  • Heaping up of keratin-like materials around the hair follicle occurs from which
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen, bleeding gums and the gums are may be spongy. The swollen papillae between the teeth produce scurvy buds. They are purple in colour and sensitive to touch there may even be bleeding. There may be loosening or loss of theeth.
  • Easy bruising
  • Joint pain like arthritis
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anemia may occur in severe, moderate or mild degree.
  • Cardiac failure may occur suddenly.
  • There is delayed wound healing
  • Haemorrhage may occur in retrobulbar and subarachnoid spaces or in brain which may be fatal.

If the above mention symptoms appears, you must consult a good doctor without delay.

Vitamin C Deficiency

Importance of Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including:

  • Collagen synthesis
  • Wound healing
  • Immune function
  • Antioxidant activity

Sources of Vitamin C

Dietary sources of vitamin C are guava, green pepper, cabbage, cauliflower, potato, liver, orange and other citrous fruits, etc.

Diagnosis of Scurvy

Diagnosing scurvy typically involves a physical examination, a review of symptoms, and blood tests to measure vitamin C levels in the body.


Dietary Changes

Preventing scurvy involves consuming an adequate amount of vitamin C-rich foods regularly. Including a variety of fruits and vegetables in the diet can help ensure sufficient intake.


For individuals at risk of or with diagnosed scurvy, vitamin C supplements may be recommended to prevent or treat the condition.

Infantile Scurvy ( Baelow’s disease)

Its not just for adults. Children can also take terrible shape. It is usually seen in 8th month but may occur as early as 4th month due to lack of vitamin C in baby’s food (Formulated food) or mother’s milk.

Onset is graual with loss of appetite, irritability and dislike to touch. Child lies with legs flexed and abducted due to pain in lower ends of femur and sometimes in the upper ends of humerus.

Haemorrhage in skin and muscles is uncommon but haematuria may occur.

If any of the above mentioned symptoms appear, you must consalt a good child paediatrician without delay.

Current Trends

Occurrence Today

While scurvy is less common in developed countries due to better access to fresh produce, it still occurs in certain populations, such as elderly individuals with limited mobility, individuals with restrictive diets, and those living in food deserts. The fact is that we are slowly becoming more dependent on containerized food which destroys the qualities of most foods.

Vulnerable Populations

Groups at higher risk of scurvy include the elderly, individuals with alcoholism, individuals with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and those with medical conditions that affect nutrient absorption.

Citizens of every conscious countries should be made aware in this regard and should be more alert and aware about this disease like polio suppression.

FAQs about Scurvy Disease

Is scurvy still a problem in today’s world?

While less common than in the past, scurvy still occurs in certain populations, particularly among those with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

How long does it take for scurvy to develop?

The development of scurvy depends on individual factors such as diet and overall health, but symptoms can begin to appear within a few months of vitamin C deficiency.

Can scurvy be fatal?

Yes, if left untreated, severe scurvy can lead to serious complications and even death.

What kills scurvy?

Scurvy can be treated and prevented by consuming foods rich in vitamin C or taking vitamin C supplements, which replenish the body’s stores of this essential nutrient.

Do people still get scurvy?

While less common today, people can still get scurvy, especially those with poor dietary habits, limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, or certain medical conditions affecting nutrient absorption.


Scurvy is a potentially serious condition caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. While it may seem like a relic of the past, it still affects certain populations today. Understanding the importance of vitamin C in the diet and ensuring an adequate intake of this essential nutrient is crucial for preventing and treating scurvy.

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