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 . 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.

Risk Factors

The following factors increase your chance of developing scurvy:

  • A poor diet, with little or no fruits and vegetables
  • Little or no vitamin C in the diet
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Alcoholism
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Gastrointestinal diseases (such as malabsorption , inflammatory bowel disease , dyspepsia , Whipple's disease )
  • Chemotherapy
  • A fad diet
  • Self-imposed restrictive diets for weight loss or due to food allergies
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Paleness
  • Sunken eyes
  • Tender gums and/or tooth loss
  • Muscular pain
  • Reopening of old wounds or sores
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bruising easily
  • Weight loss; inability to gain weight
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Aching and swelling in joints
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Diagnosis

    Scurvy can be diagnosed during a physical exam, based on an analysis of symptoms and diet. Your doctor may order a blood test to measure the level of vitamin C in the blood. To diagnose scurvy in infants and children, an x-ray may be done.


    The treatment for scurvy is simple and effective. To eliminate symptoms and make a full recovery, increase vitamin C intake to recommended levels. You can increase vitamin C levels by:

  • Eating a diet rich in citrus fruits, other fruits, and vegetables
  • Taking vitamin C supplements
  • Prevention

    To help reduce your chances of getting scurvy, take the following steps:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Get a sufficient amount of vitamin C, through diet and/or supplements.