Scurvy symptoms, signs and treatment

By Dr. Anukriti Singh|3 - 4 mins read| April 16, 2024

What is scurvy?

Scurvy is a disease of deficiency. It is caused due to a lack of vitamin C in your child’s diet. Since Vitamin C is easily available in fresh produce, it is rare to develop scurvy if your child has a proper diet. Only a severe vitamin C deficiency can lead to the signs and symptoms of scurvy disease. 

What causes scurvy?

A lack of optimum nutrition and a decreased amount of Vitamin C in the diet leads to the development of scurvy. It is relatively rare in most of the population now but severe cases may be present sometimes. If your child does not have a proper diet, does not eat enough fresh food and vegetables, has abnormal dietary habits, suffers from eating disorders or has some mental or physical disability, the child may be at an increased risk for development of scurvy. 

What are the signs and symptoms of scurvy?

Vitamin C is responsible for a widespread role and functions in the human body. Thus, the signs and symptoms of scurvy encompass the complete body of the child and a variety of general nonspecific signs. Continued deficiency of Vitamin C for 4-8 weeks will lead to the appearance of first symptoms which are-

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability

If the diet continues to be deficient, other symptoms develop after 1-3 months which include:

  • Anaemia
  • Body ache
  • Pain in bones and joints
  • Swelling of limbs
  • Small red spots under skin
  • Corkscrew hair
  • Swollen and bleeding gums
  • Loose teeth which may fall out
  • Poor wound healing
  • Opening of old wounds 
  • Large areas of blue black bruising over body
  • Mood changes
  • Light sensitivity of eyes
  • Eye dryness and irritation

What is the treatment of scurvy?

The treatment of scurvy is very simple and based on completing the dietary requirement of Vitamin C. Though the symptoms of scurvy can be very severe and appear serious, proper treatment leads to complete resolution of the condition. 

  • In case of mild or moderate symptoms of scurvy in your child, increasing the Vitamin C intake in diet and improving the overall diet can lead to resolution of symptoms. Your healthcare provider may ask you to increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet, sometimes upto 5 servings.
  • If your child has severe symptoms of scurvy, only improvement in diet may not fix the symptoms. Oral supplements can be recommended for daily dosage. Oral supplements of vitamin C complete the daily dietary requirement and also bridge the gap of the deficiency. 

What should I know as a parent?

  • It is fairly uncommon for your child to develop scurvy if you ensure your child has a proper well balanced diet.
  • Scurvy is more common in children with picky eating habits, food allergies, eating disorders and physical or mental disabilities.
  • You should consult a healthcare professional about the need for supplements if you are concerned that your child may not be getting enough vitamin C from their diet.
  • Adding fresh fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet should complete vitamin C requirements.
  • A growing child needs more vitamin C as it is essential for optimum growth
  • Vitamin C is often added artificially to juices, cereals, and snack foods. Such foods enriched with vitamin C should be preferred.

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About The Author:

Dr. Anukriti Singh

Last Updated: Tue Apr 16 2024

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