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.

Risk Factors

The following factors increase your chance of developing scurvy:

  • A limited or 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, swollen 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 may be suspected during a physical exam, based on an analysis of symptoms and diet. Your doctor will order a blood test to measure the level of vitamin C in the blood to confirm the diagnosis. To look for any specific problems the scurvy, such as bone disease, in infants and children may have an x-ray done.


    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. 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.