Scurvy is a medical condition caused by deficiency of Vitamin C. It causes weakness, fatigue, excessive bleeding, body swelling, ulcers, limb pain and weak bones and teeth. Lack of Vitamin C in the daily diet is the main reason for scurvy, which also causes skin problems. Vitamin C is an essential ingredient in the generation of collagen in the body, which is a component of connective tissues and also lends support to the blood vessels. Vitamin C deficiency also affects metabolism, nutrient absorption and makes the body more vulnerable to diseases as the immune system cannot function properly. Since Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, scurvy triggers oxidative stress in the body which causes ageing and constant tiredness. Vitamin C also plays a role in creation of neurotransmitter hormones like dopamine and epinephrine.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient, a potent revitalizer as well as a building block that staves off diseases and keeps the immune system vigorous, so its deficiency causes a range of symptoms.
Common symptoms: Sudden fatigues, irritable temperament, pain in the limbs, mild fever and weakness are some of the common early symptoms of scurvy. If not diagnosed and treated timely the symptoms worsen over the course of 1-3 months and lead to more severe conditions.
Severe symptoms: Anaemia, gingivitis, heavy chest pain, difficulty in breathing, blurring of vision, depressive mood swings, intestinal bleeding, skin haemorrhages, bruising around limbs, joint swelling, etc. are some of the severe symptoms of scurvy. If still untreated, it degenerates very fast and can be fatal. In case scurvy persists for long-term and without any treatment.
Most visible symptoms: These include jaundice, anaemia, recurring fever, numbness in lower limbs, organ failure, internal bleeding and convulsions. In extreme cases, scurvy can also cause coma and death.
Daily recommended intake of Vitamin C has to be met either via diet or through fortified supplements, as the body cannot generate Vitamin C on its own. Most common source of Vitamin C is green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits. People who don’t consume ample green vegetables or fruits like oranges, lemons, berries, strawberries, etc. are at risk of developing a Vitamin C deficiency.
Not following a proper lifestyle also causes Vitamin C deficiency and may lead to scurvy. Excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and drug use are also scurvy causes. Eating junk, processed food and lack of vegetables and fruits in daily diet also makes a person susceptible to scurvy.
Those with neurological conditions, weakened immune system and other disabilities, are quite vulnerable to scurvy. Dehydration, intestinal diseases and kidney problems can also cause scurvy.
Earlier it was believed that scurvy predominantly occurs in economically deprived households due to their inability to get fresh fruits and vegetables, but it’s also a lifestyle disease due to food habits and substance abuse. Children and elderly over the age of 65 are at the highest risk of scurvy as compared to other age groups. Scurvy causes may range from lack of balanced diet to substance abuse.
Scurvy is a non-contagious disease, so it cannot be transmitted from one person to another. However, it can be transmitted hereditarily due to a genetic syndrome known as hypoascorbemia. Genetic transmission of scurvy is rare, but it happens. Medical research is investigating its underlying cause.
If you witness any warning signs or common symptoms associated with scurvy, then consult a doctor immediately. Based on questions about your dietary preferences and lifestyle, the doctor may recommend a blood test to determine the amount of Vitamin C in the bloodstream. Lack of Vitamin C in blood below indicates deficiency. In case of further complications like intestinal bleeding, imaging tests are conducted.
Though the symptoms may range from mild to lethal, but regular dose of vitamin C is the treatment. It's the only panacea for preventing as well as treating scurvy.
Other possible treatments for scurvy:
In case of lifestyle related deficiency, the doctor would suggest cutting down on smoking, reducing alcohol intake, adequate rest, exercise and consuming fresh fruits, cereals and vegetables regularly.
Vitamin C supplement tablets are widely available and should be consumed upon prescription. In severe cases of scurvy, high dosage Vitamin C tablets are prescribed for months.
Since Vitamin C is abundantly found in citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, tomatoes, pineapples, etc., the best home remedy for scurvy is consuming these fruits.
Either prepare a vegetable salad, a jug of lemonade, or fresh fruit juice, or a smoothie with all fruits. Green vegetables like spinach, green peas, broccoli and cauliflower are also rich in tomatoes.
Mangoes and berries are also a powerful reservoir of Vitamin C. Savour all these delicious fruits, rejuvenate your body and ward off scurvy.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so boiling or cooking fruits would lead to a loss of Vitamin, and its best to eat fruits raw or pulp them. Prolonged storage and heat also cause a loss of vitamin, so consuming fresh fruits and vegetables should be preferred.
Regular consumption of Vitamin C rich fruits, vegetables is the sure-shot way to prevent scurvy.
Pregnant women, lactating mothers, infants, elderly, smokers and regular drinkers require more Vitamin C than normal. They should ensure they are consuming ample citrus fruits and vegetables, or take Vitamin C oral supplements if necessary.
Potatoes, guavas, sweet pepper and papayas are also rich sources of Vitamin C.
Everyone should consume between 80-120 mg of Vitamin C daily.
Vitamin C is a vital nutrient that should be consumed regularly. Scurvy is caused by the deficiency of Vitamin C. It can degenerate if untreated and can cause lethal complexities. Prolonged scurvy can lead to coma as well as death. Anaemia, intestinal bleeding and organ failure are all associated with scurvy. It’s important to lead a healthy life, consume a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits, and visit a doctor in case of any symptoms. Children, elderly, smokers and pregnant women need to take more Vitamin C than normal. In order to maintain good health consult doctor often and timely assess your health insurance plan. Beat the heat with ice-chilled drinks or juice, rejuvenate your body, improve skin health, and prevent scurvy.