What causes Scurvy?

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Scurvy occurs due to Vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy is derived from the Latin term "scorbutus".  Scurvy has existed in ancient Greek and Egyptian times. Between the 16th to 18th centuries, scurvy was widely prevalent amongst the sailors. They went for long voyages and did not get foods enriched with Vitamin C.  In this 21st century, scurvy has become rare in modern societies. Due to scurvy, the body fails to synthesize vitamin C, which is vital for the production of collagen and for the absorption of iron.  Scurvy can be fatal if not treated. Patients need to obtain vitamin C from external sources like citrus fruits. Regular consumption of fruits, vegetables or diets fortified with vitamin C helps to prevent scurvy.



What Causes Scurvy?

Scurvy is rare in contemporary time. However, it still prevails in third world countries. The disease is especially seen in elderly people, alcoholics, people on chemotherapy, and those with anorexia or poor gastrointestinal conditions. Scurvy can occur in infants or children suffering from severe malnutrition. Vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy. Moreover, this may be occur due to nutritional ignorance, famine, restrictive diets (due to allergies, or food fads), and eating disorders (anorexia or bulimia).



What Are the Symptoms of Scurvy?

Initial symptoms include sudden weight loss, loss of appetite, irritability, rapid breathing, diarrhea, discomfort in legs, bleeding or hemorrhage, swelling, and paralytic feelings. In progressive stage, gum bleeding, loosening of teeth, petechial hemorrhage, bleeding in the eyes, constochondral bleeding, hyperkeratosis (skin disorder), and sicca syndrome (autoimmune connective tissue disorder) may occur. Scurvy is also called as "Barlow's Disease". Affected babies become irritated and assume frog leg posture when struck with pseudoparalysis. Subperiosteal hemorrhage may also occur.



How is Scurvy Treated?

Usually doctors perform physical examination along with blood tests. Ascorbate level in the body is determined. Interventional radiologic procedures are used to diagnose "bone mineral density." Vitamin C supplements are prescribed, or injected. Daily intake of vitamin C helps in rapid recovery.



How to Prevent Scurvy?

Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables helps to prevent scurvy. Particularly good sources include citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruit. Kiwi fruit, red and green peppers, brussels sprouts, strawberries, broccoli, tomato, cantaloupe, potato, cauliflower, and cabbage are also packed with vitamin C. One can also take vitamin C supplements. 



What Is the Recommended Intake for Vitamin C?

The Recommended Intake for Vitamin C can vary on health factors. Pregnant and lactating women need higher doses of Vitamin C.

  • Children (1 to 8 years):  15 to 25 mg/day
  • Children and teenaged kids:  65mg to 90mg/day
  • Adults: 75mg to 90 mg/day
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