By | June 10, 2022

Scurvy is probably the oldest known disease caused by malnutrition. A lack of vitamin C for several months leads to various symptoms of the disease which, if left untreated, can lead to the death of the person concerned. Historically, scurvy was widespread among sailors and soldiers, while nowadays it occurs in regions plagued by famine.

What is scurvy?

Scurvy occurs as a result of a persistent undersupply of ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C. Since ascorbic acid cannot be produced by the body, its supply must be ensured by consuming foods that contain a sufficient amount of vitamin C. For what does scaphoid fracture mean, please visit

This includes fruits and vegetables as well as fruit extracts such as juices. Liver and oysters also contain vitamin C. If the metabolism lacks vitamin C, it loses the ability to form collagen, which is mainly found in connective tissue and the skin, and to absorb iron.

Scurvy only occurs after several months as a result of this malnutrition, although vitamin C cannot be stored in the body.


Scurvy is a typical deficiency symptom caused by an insufficient diet. Usually, to avoid scurvy, a person needs a balanced diet to ensure a healthy metabolism and an adequate supply of cells.

Vitamin C is a necessary component and is part of the daily diet, mainly in the form of fruit and vegetables. If vitamin C is omitted from the daily diet voluntarily or as a result of an unavailable supply, scurvy develops.

Scurvy usually only occurs occasionally in industrialized countries and then mainly affects people who follow an unbalanced diet or who can no longer put together their diet properly due to age. Alcoholics who neglect healthy meals can also be affected by scurvy.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Scurvy is mainly noticeable in the form of general exhaustion and tiredness. In addition, wounds heal poorly or not at all. If vitamin C is not supplied over a longer period of time, bleeding gums and gum proliferation as well as tooth loss and bleeding in the tongue can also occur.

As the disease progresses, muscle atrophy, bone pain, high fever and severe diarrhea occur. Skin problems in the form of inflammation or bleeding are also not uncommon. The weakened immune system also makes the body susceptible to infections of all kinds.

Scurvy is therefore often a breeding ground for other diseases. In some cases, the disease can also be fatal. Such cases occur particularly frequently due to cardiac insufficiency. In severe scurvy, depression can also be observed in some cases, the cause of which has not yet been fully clarified.

Symptoms on the bones of patients are not obvious. Scurvy causes significant lifts there, which can restrict movement and lead to limping. Growth is also restricted in children and adolescents. Depending on the duration and course of the disease, the bone age lags behind the biological age by about one or two years.

Diagnosis & History

The attending doctor diagnoses scurvy based on the external symptoms and an extensive questioning of the patient about his eating habits. To confirm the diagnosis, a blood test is performed to determine the level of ascorbic acid in the blood.

Scurvy initially begins with inexplicable fatigue and weight loss in the patient. Loss of appetite, which exacerbates scurvy, and diarrhea are also among the initial symptoms. In the further course, pain occurs, especially in the area of ​​the longer skeletal bones, fever, accelerated breathing and numbness.

Scurvy is already advanced when the gums bleed and the teeth became loose. Symptoms of advanced scurvy include bulging of the eyeballs, bleeding in the skin, and severe joint pain. If left untreated, heart failure as a result of scurvy can lead to death.


Left untreated, scurvy can cause serious complications such as tooth loss and poor wound healing. In connection with the increased susceptibility to infections, the loss of teeth is particularly problematic – it can lead to dangerous inflammation in the mouth. As a result of muscle atrophy, extreme tiredness occurs, which increases the risk of falls and accidents in everyday life. The loss of appetite favors the typical deficiency symptoms and can lead to chronic eating disorders.

Finally, it can lead to dangerous bleeding of the skin and severe joint pain. As a result, scurvy leads to pronounced cardiac insufficiency and, as a result, to a heart attack and ultimately to the death of the patient. When treating scurvy, the risks come from the drugs and preparations prescribed.

Ascorbic acid can cause gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and stomach pressure if overdosed. In addition, vitamin C increases the absorption of iron from food, which can lead to symptoms in some pre-existing conditions. Painkillers and fever medication can cause various side effects and interactions.

For example, headaches, skin irritations and problems with the gastrointestinal tract often occur. Allergic reactions and intolerance to the prescribed medicines and dietary supplements cannot be ruled out either.

When should you go to the doctor?

Scurvy is one of those diseases that has many signs. If bleeding from the gums and fatigue occur more often, a doctor can be consulted. However, there is no reason to immediately go to an emergency room. Only a progressing scurvy disease, which is already noticeable with cardiac insufficiency and similarly serious symptoms, is a medical emergency.

Overall, the symptoms of scurvy are so diverse that they can justify a trip to the doctor on their own. A dermatologist should be consulted for skin problems, and a dentist can assess gum problems. For general symptoms, a family doctor will be helpful. The diagnosis of scurvy is quite clear and can be made by any doctor. Therefore, the doctor can also be consulted if a vitamin C deficiency is suspected. However, those affected are well advised to take action immediately if they suspect this nutrient deficiency and to compensate for it.

If in doubt, you should always consult your family doctor. The suspicion of scurvy is closer to certain risk groups. These are older people, people with very unbalanced diets and smokers. All of these groups of people occasionally consume too little vitamin C.

Treatment & Therapy

Scurvy is cured by taking ascorbic acid. When the deficiency symptoms begin, eating foods high in vitamin C is sufficient to quickly resolve the symptoms and cure scurvy.

Historically, this was recognized as early as the 18th century by the English doctor James Lind, whose prescription of lime juice successfully curbed scurvy among sailors in the English Navy.

The modern treatment of advanced symptoms of scurvy consists of oral administration of high doses of ascorbic acid or injections, which take effect quickly. Slight deficiency symptoms of scurvy, which can occur as a result of a faulty diet, can also be compensated for with orange juice.

In addition, in the case of scurvy, painkillers and medication for diarrhea and fever are administered in order to alleviate the accompanying symptoms.


Scurvy is usually easy to avoid if you pay attention to the right combination of foods in your daily diet. Fruits and vegetables as well as fruit juices contain enough vitamin C to prevent scurvy. With a one-sided diet, which is always discouraged, you should at least make sure that you get enough vitamin C in the form of food supplements. Travelers to regions with a shortage can prevent scurvy by having a sufficient supply of vitamin C tablets.


After successful treatment for scurvy, the goal of follow-up is to maintain healthy vitamin C levels. Adequate vitamin C intake is the only way to prevent recurrence of the disease. The best way to get vitamin C is through food. A balanced diet is the most important measure after completing treatment.

Healthy, fresh foods provide the body with sufficient vitamin C. Fruit and vegetables in particular should be eaten in sufficient quantities. If not enough vitamin C is ingested through food, then vitamin C preparations and dietary supplements are imperative. It should be noted that too much vitamin C can also have negative effects on the body. Too much vitamin C is excreted by the body through the kidneys.

Diarrhea or flatulence can be the first warning signs of oversupply. In the worst case, the body can form kidney stones, which can lead to colic and severe pain. Those affected should be sensitive to their bodies in order to feel the first warning signals. If symptoms of a renewed vitamin deficiency occur, a doctor must be consulted immediately. Once the cause of the disease has been determined, the trigger should be avoided in the future. This is the only way to rule out a recurrence of the disease.

You can do that yourself

To counteract scurvy, the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables is advisable. According to the recommendations of scientists, people should be consuming five portions of it every day anyway. This is the best way to prevent scurvy and a number of other diseases. Those affected should therefore fundamentally change their diet.

At the same time, it is advisable to avoid nicotine and alcohol. Certain vitamin tablets from the drugstore are also enriched with vitamin C and promise a contribution to healing. A one-sided diet should be avoided. It is known from Asian countries that the exclusive consumption of rice can cause the typical symptoms.

Whether self-treatment promises success depends on the extent of the symptoms. A severe course is present today only in regions where famine prevails. Self-treatment in industrialized nations regularly leads to healing due to the abundance of vitamin-containing products. In the case of an unfavorable course, on the other hand, only intravenous administration of vitamin C will help. This is particularly true if a severe loss of strength has already occurred. In this case, you should contact a doctor as soon as possible. There is danger to life.