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What is Scurvy?

Scurvy is a disease caused by a severe deficiency of vitamin C, hence it is also called chronic vitamin C deficiency disorder. It is an ancient disease that developed during the 15th to 18th centuries or during the early times of Greek and Egyptians. It is a very rare disease and most commonly seen in undeveloped countries with a lack of proper nutrients.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin which plays a vital role in repairing, regeneration, and maintenance of tissues, bones, blood vessels, and skin. It is a powerful antioxidant, which helps in protecting against heart-related disorders, and a variety of cancers and neutralizes the effects of nitrites. Vitamin C also absorbs iron and prevents scurvy, and decreases LDL or bad cholesterol and triglycerides.

Symptoms of Scurvy

The deficiency of vitamin C disorders usually appears after 8 to 12 weeks. Fatigue, irritability, lethargy, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, weakness and weight loss are a few early signs of Scurvy. Other symptoms include:

  • Nausea

  • Anaemia

  • Headache

  • Exhaustion

  • Bulging eyes

  • Chest pain

  • Bleeding gums

  • Blurred vision

  • Corkscrew hairs

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Shortness of breath

  • Slow wound healing

  • Dry and eye irritation

  • Myalgia, or muscle pain

  • Painful joints and muscles

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding

  • Tender and swollen joints

  • Depression or mood swings

  • Tooth decay or loss of tooth

  • Small red spots on the skin

Causes of Scurvy

The main cause of Scurvy is an insufficient intake of vitamin C or ascorbic acid in our diet.

Vitamin C is required for the production of collagen which is an important component in the connective tissue. The connective tissues are required to provide structure and support to the body. It also provides structure to the blood vessels. Lack of vitamin C leads to the underproduction of collagen which results in the breakdown of body tissues.

Vitamin C also helps in iron absorption. A deficiency of vitamin C leads to anaemia.

There are a few medical conditions and certain lifestyle changes that result in the deficiency of vitamin C. These include- age factors, consumption of alcohol, use of tobacco products, addiction to drugs, living alone, malnutrition, disabilities, patients suffering from kidney disorders, intake of more carbohydrates, etc.

Also read: Deficiency Diseases

Scurvy Treatment

There are few physical examinations and body fluid analyses to check the levels of vitamin C and iron in the blood serum. X-rays of joints are also used to diagnose this disorder.

This disorder can be cured by taking vitamin C supplements and by increasing the daily intake of vitamin C in the diet. Along with these, patients are also advised to consult a dietitian to alter their diet based on their medical condition and to reduce the use of drugs, tobacco products and intake of alcohol.

Sources of Vitamin C

Vitamins are the essential nutrients which are required by our body cells and tissues to perform several important processes. All citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, e.g. Indian gooseberry, oranges, grapes, lemons, etc. Other sources include:

  • Vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, green peas, tomatoes, potatoes, and, dark leafy green vegetables, especially spinach, kale, and Swiss chard.

  • Fruits include strawberries, blackberries, guava, kiwi fruit, papaya, pineapples, and mangoes.

  • Others like sprouts, paprika, liver, and oysters are also considered good sources of vitamin C.

Also Read: Vitamins And Minerals

Risk Factors Involved

The risk factors include:

  • A diet lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables might result in scurvy.

  • Anorexia and mental health issues.

  • Old age.

  • Excessive alcohol and drug intake.

The above-mentioned factors in humans are highly risky and might develop Scurvy in humans.

This was a brief introduction to Scurvy disease. For more additional information about this deficiency disorder, vitamins, and nutrients keep visiting BYJU’S Biology website.

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