Scurvy – Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Scurvy is a rare disease that occurs when the body lacks vitamin C. Vitamin C or ascorbic acid cannot be produced by the body, so it needs regular and adequate intake of food. Vitamin C is also very important for the body because it helps to make collagen. Collagen is a protein found in various body tissues such as skin, bones, and blood vessels.

Without enough presence of vitamin C, collagen fibers in the body cannot be repaired. So, it can trigger damage to body tissue. This tissue damage then triggers the appearance of scurvy in someone.

Scurvy Symptoms

The symptoms of scurvy will not be seen clearly at the beginning of vitamin C deficiency. Symptoms often appear after a person experiences chronic vitamin C deficiency for 3 months.

In adults, the scurvy symptoms that can be observed are:

  • Feeling tired all the time.
  • The appearance of reddish-blue spots on the skin. Reddish blue spots that appear often occur at the site of hair appearance (hair follicles on the skin). Hair that grows in these areas is often curly and easily falls out. If left untreated, these spots can become fused and enlarged.
  • Often grumpy.
  • Pain in the limbs, especially in the legs.
  • Swelling of the gums and prone to bleeding.
  • Severe joint pain due to bleeding in the joints.
  • Shortness of breath, especially after strenuous activities.
  • Skin easily bruised.
  • Red scar and swollen.

If not handled properly, scurvy can cause other problems such as jaundice (marked by yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyeball), edema, and heart disease.

Scurvy Symptoms

In children or toddlers, scurvy symptoms that can be observed include:

  • Lack of appetite.
  • Easily offended.
  • Slow weight gain.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fever.

If the symptoms in children are getting worse, additional symptoms may appear as follows:

  • Pain and swelling in the legs which can be very painful, especially if their pants or diapers are being replaced.
  • Eyes that stand out.
  • The appearance of reddish-blue spots such as the symptoms in adults.

Scurvy Causes

The main scurvy cause in someone is chronic vitamin C deficiency. If a person experiences vitamin C deficiency, collagen regeneration will be disrupted. Without the formation of collagen fibers, the body’s tissue will be damaged slowly.

There are a number of risk factors that can trigger someone to experience scurvy, resulting in a lack of vitamin C intake, namely:

  • Drug dependence.
  • The habit of drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Experiencing complex mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and major depression.
  • Being pregnant or breastfeeding requires more vitamin intake.
  • Undergo a fad diet, an unhealthy and unbalanced diet with the aim of losing weight instantly.
  • Smoke.
  • Having a disease that interferes with the absorption of nutrients, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  • Suffered from anorexia nervosa, a mental disorder that causes someone to always think that she or he will gain weight when eating. So, he eats only in a small amount.
  • Underwent treatment that can cause nausea and thus loss of appetite. An example is chemotherapy treatment.
  • Advanced age. Elderly people who find it difficult to maintain a healthy and balanced diet are at risk of this rare disease.

Scurvy Diagnosis

The easiest examination method to diagnose scurvy is through laboratory studies of the content of vitamin C in the body. The content of vitamin C that can be analyzed is in blood plasma and leukocytes. In addition, radiology studies can also help diagnose whether a person is affected or not.

The following is an explanation of some tests that can be done to diagnose scurvy:

1. Study of The Content of Vitamin C in Blood Plasma

This study was carried out by satisfying the patients, then taking their blood samples and analyzing blood plasma to determine vitamin C content.

Differences in vitamin C content in blood plasma can be explained as follows:

  • The content of vitamin C is less than 0.1 mg / dL indicating the occurrence of scurvy in patients.
  • Vitamin C content of less than 0.2 mg / dL indicates vitamin C deficiency in patients.
  • Vitamin C content of 0.2-0.3 mg / dL shows low vitamin C levels.
  • Vitamin C content above 0.3 mg / dL indicates that the patient has sufficient vitamin C levels.
Study of The Content of Vitamin C in Blood Plasma

2. Study of The Content of Vitamin C in Leukocytes

The study of vitamin C content in leukocytes can provide more accurate results because it is directly related to the content of vitamin C in tissues. In addition, the content of vitamin C in leukocytes is not influenced by daily body rhythm or changes in the intake of vitamin C from food.

The value of the vitamin C content in leukocytes can be interpreted as follows:

  • The vitamin C content of 0 mg / dL shows latent scurvy.
  • The content of vitamin C 0-7 mg / dL indicates the patient has vitamin C. deficiency.
  • The content of vitamin C 8-15 mg / dL shows low levels of vitamin C in the tissue.
  • The content of vitamin C above 15 mg / dL indicates the network has gotten enough vitamins C.

3. Radiology Studies

Radiological studies can help diagnose this rare disease in children by looking at the state of the bones and joints. In the bones of children who suffer from scurvy will appear some symptoms such as:

  • Bone lifted in the subperiosteal part.
  • Dislocation and broken bones.
  • Reabsorption of bone cavities that cause cavity enlargement.

Scurvy Treatment

Scurvy can be overcome easily by providing vitamin C supplements to sufferers. Vitamin C is a substance that is easily absorbed and can relieve symptoms quickly. Most of the sufferers can recover from the scurvy symptoms in about two weeks.

After the symptoms subside, the sufferers must always maintain their diet. So, vitamin C intake is maintained. If the intake of vitamin C is maintained properly, the sufferer no longer needs to take vitamin C supplements.

Patients who experience scurvy due to an abnormality or disease need to get other treatments as recommended by specialists in their fields, such as:

  • Nutrition specialist, if scurvy is suspected due to an unbalanced diet.
  • A specialist in the digestive tract, this disease is suspected to be caused by a disease in the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s disease.
  • Psychologist, if this rare disease is suspected to be caused by psychological factors.
Scurvy - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

To maintain adequate intake of vitamin C, the following are the minimum levels of vitamin C consumption recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences:

  • Infants aged 0-6 months: 40 mg. Ages 7-12 months: 50 mg.
  • Children aged 1-3 years: 15 mg. Ages 4-8 years: 25 mg.
  • Men aged 9-13 years: 45 mg. Ages 14-18 years: 75 mg. Age 19-70 years: 90 mg.
  • Women aged 9-13 years: 45 mg. Ages 14-18 years: 65 mg. Age 19-70 years: 75 mg.
  • Pregnant women under the age of 18 years: 80 mg. Pregnant aged 19-50 years: 85 mg.
  • Women breastfeed with under the age of 18 years: 115 mg. Breastfeeding 19-19 years old: 120 mg.

In patients suffering from nutritional absorption disorders, the doctor will give vitamin C in the form of injections at a dose of 100 mg disposable.

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Scurvy Prevention

The most effective prevention method is to maintain vitamin C intake according to the recommendations. Some foods that are rich in vitamin C are:

  • Orange.
  • Lemon.
  • Strawberry.
  • Guava.
  • Kiwi.
  • Papaya.
  • Tomato.
  • Carrot.
  • Broccoli.
  • Potato.
  • Spinach.
  • Cabbage.

Vitamin C is easily damaged by heat and duration of storage. Therefore, it is highly recommended to consume fruit or vegetables that are sources of vitamin C in a state that is still fresh so that the womb is maintained.