Scurvy – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Pictures
What is scurvy ?
Scurvy occurs when someone is suffering from severe Vitamin C deficiency for long periods of time. People who don’t consume adequate amounts of vitamin C from food and beverages are at risk of developing the disease because the body does not produce nor store vitamin C for long. Those who are suffering from scurvy are prone to illnesses and always feel ill because the body’s defense mechanism is weak.
Treatment for scurvy is pretty simple which primarily involves increasing the consumption of vitamin C. However, sufferers need to be cautious because too much vitamin C is dangerous. It is very important for anyone who receives treatment for scurvy to follow the recommended dosage of vitamin C supplementation to avoid overdosing on vitamin C.
Importance of Vitamin C for the Human Body
Vitamin C is essential for the body because it plays a vital role in accomplishing numerous metabolic processes, such as:
- Fighting infection
The body’s defense mechanism, especially the lymphocytes, needs vitamin C to function properly.
- Absorption of iron
Vitamin C is essential in the absorption of iron, most specifically the iron from lentils and beans.
- Proper functioning of antioxidants
The chemical reaction of oxygen inside the body results in the release of free radicals which damage the cell membranes. Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant which destroys free radicals.
- Formation of collagen
Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen which is essential in strengthening the bones, skin and blood vessels. It is also important in the healing process of wounds. Vitamin C is also crucial in the production of other substances such neurotransmitters.
Contributing factors for Scurvy
Scurvy occurs when the body is deprived of vitamin C for long periods of time. There are several reasons why chronic vitamin C deficiency occurs and some of these are Anorexia, Ignorance, Famine, Restrictive diet and certain conditions which make oral ingestion of food extremely difficult.
Individuals more prone to Scurvy
The disease could affect people of all ages, but studies showed that it is more prevalent in older and malnourished adults. This is because certain lifestyles and dietary habits are conducive for the development of scurvy, such as:
- Fussy eating
- Crash dieting
- Unhealthy diet
- Allergy diets
- Eating disorders
The disease had its early beginnings among sailors since lengthy sea voyages make it hard to get foods that are rich in vitamin C. However, the disease has become more common these days. In fact, children who are suffering from vitamin C deficiency have undersized bones in the legs and arms as inadequate vitamin C make growth plates within the bone harden prematurely.
When scurvy is in its early stages, sufferers may exhibit mild symptoms similar to self-limiting infections such as:
- Appetite loss
- Generally feeling ill
- Pain in muscles and joints
On the other hand, symptoms may become more specific when the disease is already in its advance stage which may include:
- Loose teeth
- Swollen gums
- Dry and scaly skin
- Bulging eyes
- Easy and severe bruising
- Bleeding of muscles and joints
- Dry hair
Diagnosis of Scurvy
Physicians will conduct a series of tests to diagnose the disease which include physical examination to look for associated symptoms, blood test to examine the level of iron and vitamin C in the body, and X-ray examination to determine the extent of damage the disease has caused. The physician will also check the patient’s medical history and inquire about his or her dietary habits.
Treating scurvy is pretty easy, that is, to increase the intake of vitamin C daily. Treatment may involve taking vitamin C supplementation for a certain period of time to accelerate the alleviation of symptoms such as muscle and joint pains as well as bleeding gums and skin. Those who are suffering from other nutritional insufficiency like anemia, vitamin C supplementation may be incorporated with an improved diet to address the problem. In other cases, underlying problems must also be addressed for an effective scurvy treatment. Depending on the needs of the patient, the physician may recommend vitamin C supplementation to be taken orally or through injection. Scurvy shouldn’t be left untreated because it may lead to serious life-threatening conditions such as heart attack and even death.
Scurvy is a very rare illness which occurs as a result of chronic vitamin C deficiency. However, this could be treated and even prevented by taking enough vitamin C daily, either through diet or supplementation. Those who have the risk factors should eat foods that have high content of vitamin C such as fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C supplementation also helps but it should be taken with caution and under a doctor’s supervision because too much vitamin C could lead to other serious health problems.