Vitamin C Deficiency

By | June 10, 2022

Vitamin C is essential for maintaining good health. It strengthens the immune system, eliminates free radicals and is involved in building connective tissue. Since the human body is not able to produce this vitamin itself or store it effectively, vitamin C deficiency quickly occurs.

What is vitamin C deficiency?

As the name suggests, vitamin C deficiency is an insufficient amount of ascorbic acid in the body. Deficiency symptoms trigger various complaints, which can manifest themselves in different symptoms. These often cannot be assigned to a defect immediately and can be very unspecific. Since vitamin C is involved in many processes in the human body, a permanent deficiency can lead to various diseases. Often the overall condition is disturbed by such a deficiency. For melkersson-rosenthal syndrome explanation, please visit

On the one hand, vitamin C is involved in hormone synthesis, but on the other hand it also promotes the absorption of iron in the small intestine. It also binds heavy metals such as nickel, lead and cadmium. It increases the body’s immune defenses and strengthens bones and muscles. Unlike an overdose of many other vitamins, an overdose of vitamin C does not cause any discomfort in the body. As long as it is supplied through food and not through separate preparations, there are no side effects to worry about.

As a rule, excess vitamin C is excreted in the urine. It is water soluble. Dietary supplements, on the other hand, can promote problems in the digestive tract due to their dehydrating effect. They should only be taken in extreme emergencies and not replace the daily portion of fruit and vegetables.


The causes of a vitamin C deficiency are primarily the insufficient intake of the vitamin through food. A corresponding lifestyle can also make a significant contribution. Smoking, oral contraceptives and taking acetylsalicylic acid ( aspirin ) also promote vitamin deficiency. Antibiotics have a similar effect. The reason for this is a lower absorption capacity of the body even if the supply was originally sufficient.

It is no longer able to absorb the vitamin from food and excretes it unprocessed. Therefore, a 50 percent higher vitamin C intake is recommended, especially for smokers, to prevent deficiency symptoms. The situation is similar with various diseases. Gastrointestinal diseases in particular can cause the body to have a reduced absorption capacity.

One of the most important sources of vitamin C is fresh fruit. Citrus fruits and berries in particular have a high vitamin C content. But peppers and various types of cabbage also help to balance the daily requirement. The German Society for Nutrition recommends around 100 milligrams of vitamin C per day for adults. Pregnant and breastfeeding women also have a higher requirement, which is between 110 and 150 milligrams.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

There are many signs of a vitamin C deficiency. A high susceptibility to infections is common, since the immune system works less well. But tiredness, lack of concentration and cold symptoms such as limb and joint pain are not uncommon. The body’s ability to heal wounds can be reduced, with the risk of bleeding often increasing at the same time.

This causes hematomas to develop more quickly. In addition, the sufferer’s skin may be rough, dry, and scaly. Depending on the duration and severity of the deficiency, loosening of the teeth is also possible. Not all symptoms of vitamin C deficiency are clear. Unspecific complaints are also possible, which usually cannot be clearly assigned. In the case of a vitamin C deficiency, general well-being is often disturbed. Those affected feel weak, sick and drained.

Depression has also been found to be above average in people with vitamin C deficiency. Especially with frequent bleeding of the mucous membranes, especially the gums, a doctor should be consulted.

Diagnosis & course of disease

This will usually ask about the patient’s lifestyle and previous illnesses. Questioning the patient (anamnesis) precedes the examination. The more pronounced the symptoms, the quicker the doctor can conclude that there is a deficiency. The diagnosis is made by taking a blood sample.

In the laboratory, the patient’s blood is examined for deficiency symptoms. In this way, a clear diagnosis can be made. In the following, the doctor will initiate further examinations, if necessary, to rule out diseases that cause the deficiency.


A lack of vitamin C has negative effects on the entire body. The most well-known complication is scurvy. This disease occurs after about four to eight weeks of a deficiency and manifests itself, for example, in bleeding and proliferation of the gums, and the characteristic grey-yellowish skin. If there is no comprehensive treatment by then at the latest, the affected person’s teeth will fall out and serious complications of the bones and joints will occur.

Bone bleeding, joint inflammation and wound healing disorders are typical, but also cardiac insufficiency and declining physical and mental performance. This is usually accompanied by depression. In infants and young children, a lack of vitamin C can cause bone growth disorders. In the further course, Möller-Barlow disease develops, a special form of anemia that can lead to death in infants.

Correcting vitamin C deficiency early can prevent these complications. However, treatment with dietary supplements carries the risk of vitamin poisoning. Any side effects caused by additives cannot be ruled out either. Intravenous administration of vitamin C can lead to infections, nerve and muscle injuries, and other complications.

When should you go to the doctor?

A vitamin C deficiency is associated with very unspecific symptoms in the initial phase. These include tiredness, weakness, slight muscle pain, an increased susceptibility to infection and a general lack of drive. These symptoms can have numerous causes and are not a clear indication of a vitamin C deficiency. In addition, the absorption of vitamin C in the body can be temporarily impaired by temporary factors such as smoking, medication (contraceptives, aspirin) or metabolic disorders, but then normalize over time. A visit to the general practitioner in this early phase is not mandatory, but can still be helpful in clarifying the actual causes of the non-specific symptoms.

In the further course of a vitamin C deficiency, very specific symptoms appear. These include inflamed and bleeding gums, delayed wound healing, edema, bleeding, increased joint pain and reduced ability to form collagen. The latter causes a weakening of the connective tissue and can lead to further bleeding in the skin, especially in the thigh area.

Bleeding can also occur over a large area or at specific points. In extreme cases, bleeding into the eyes and mucous membranes is possible. Due to the permanently inflamed gums, there is still a risk of tooth loss. In this acute phase, a doctor’s visit is mandatory. In addition to the general practitioner, a dentist and, if necessary, an internist should also be consulted to rule out a permanent metabolic disease.

Treatment & Therapy

If the result of the blood test shows a vitamin C deficiency, it makes sense to change your lifestyle and diet in particular. A conscious diet can contribute to improving your overall well-being. Those affected should eat more fruit and vegetables. If other diseases have been identified that negatively affect the absorption of vitamin C, these must be treated separately.

Basically, a doctor will advise you to quit or reduce smoking. Apart from that, vitamin C preparations are often used at first to get the vitamin C level back on track. This not only improves the general condition – the symptoms usually disappear within a short time.


Because vitamin C is sensitive to heat, light, and air, it makes sense to eat fruit when it’s still fresh. It should also be kept in the refrigerator, as the vitamins will last longer. Frozen food often contains even more vitamins than fruit that is a few days old. In order to prevent vitamin C deficiency, it is important to eat fruit and vegetables every day. Vitamin C deficiency has become rather rare in industrialized countries.


Vitamin C fulfills important functions in the human body and must therefore be ingested in sufficient doses through food over the long term. If the vitamin C stores are replenished after successful treatment of the deficiency, patients must continue to ensure an adequate intake of the vitamin in the long term.

The necessary follow-up care depends accordingly on the triggering underlying disease and its successful treatment. If the cause of the deficiency can be treated without lasting consequences, an adequate supply of vitamin C can be ensured with the help of a balanced, varied diet. High-quality vitamin C suppliers that can be optimally used by the body are above all fresh fruit and vegetables as well as liver.

However, long-term intake of dietary supplements with high doses of the vitamin is not necessary. If, on the other hand, the diagnosed deficiency can be traced back to a serious, ongoing disease such as cancer, it can make sense to take medication to provide the body with long-term care.

An increased need for vitamin C, for example in the case of heavy physical exertion in competitive sports, the use of certain medications or alcohol abuse, can also make long-term drug treatment necessary. In such cases, the possible intake of vitamin C preparations should always take place after consultation with a doctor and be adapted promptly to changing circumstances. The basis of aftercare is always a conscious diet with food containing vitamin C.

You can do that yourself

A vitamin C deficiency can be remedied by a targeted change in diet. The menu should be balanced and consist of a variety of foods and drinks. In addition to fruit and vegetables, liver and fish also contain a lot of vitamin C.

In the event of severe deficiency symptoms, the doctor should be consulted. This is particularly necessary for complaints such as fever or joint inflammation, as the symptoms indicate a serious deficiency, which in the worst case can even cause heart failure. The doctor can prescribe appropriate dietary supplements to help relieve symptoms. Vitamin C preparations are particularly useful in the event of a vitamin C deficiency as a result of a gastrointestinal disease, since the weakened intestinal tract cannot extract enough vitamins from the food. Finally, if you have a vitamin C deficiency, you should do enough sport. Physical activity stimulates the metabolism and thus contributes to better absorption of vitamins.

Which steps make sense to remedy the defect quickly also depends on the cause. A vitamin C deficiency should therefore always be discussed with your family doctor or an internist. Serious underlying diseases must be ruled out before the deficiency can be remedied in the long term.

Vitamin C Deficiency