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Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention of Scurvy

Scurvy is a disease that results from vitamin C deficiency.


Read: Scurvy: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors and Early Warning Signs


Diagnosis of Scurvy

A physician will conduct a physical exam, and request lab tests to assess the level of vitamin C in the blood.

Imaging tests can help reveal internal damage resulting from scurvy.

Treatment

Treatment involves administering vitamin C supplements by mouth or by injection.

The recommended dosage is:

  • 1 to 2 grams per day for 3 days
  • 500 milligrams for one week
  • 100 mg for 1 to 3 months

Within 24 hours from receiving treatments, patients can expect to see an improvement in fatigue, lethargy, pain, anorexia, and confusion. Bruising, bleeding, and weakness starts to resolve within 7 to 14 days.

After 3 months, a complete recovery is expected, and long-term effects are unlikely, except in the case of severe dental damage.

Prevention

Scurvy can be prevented by consuming enough vitamins C. Preferably, getting enough Vitamins C from the diet is advised, but sometimes as a supplement.

Recovery

Most people begin to recover from scurvy fairly quickly after starting treatment and do see an improvement in some symptoms within a day or two of treatment. They see improvements in symptoms including:

  • pain
  • exhaustion
  • confusion
  • a headache
  • mood swings

Other symptoms may take a few weeks to improve following treatment. Such symptoms are:

  • weakness
  • bleeding
  • bruising
  • jaundice

Daily Recommended Vitamin C

Daily vitamin C recommendations depend on age, gender, and other health conditions.

Age Male Female During pregnancy During lactation
0–6 months 40 mg 40 mg
7–12 months 50 mg 50 mg
1–3 years 15 mg 15 mg
4–8 years 25 mg 25 mg
9–13 years 45 mg 45 mg
14–18 years 75 mg 65 mg 80 mg 115 mg
19 + years 90 mg 75 mg 85 mg 120 mg

People who smoke or have digestive conditions typically require at least 35 mg a day more than those who don’t smokers.

Sources of Vitamin C

Natural methods like citrus fruits (oranges, limes, and lemons) have traditionally been used to prevent and treat scurvy, including several other fruits and vegetables which contain higher doses of vitamin C than citrus fruits.

Many prepared foods, like juices and cereals, also contain added vitamin C, and such foods with high levels of vitamin C include:

  • guavas
  • papayas
  • sweet peppers
  • dark, leafy greens, like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard
  • broccoli
  • green peas
  • potatoes
  • cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • kiwifruits
  • berries, especially raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries
  • pineapples and mango
  • tomatoes, especially tomato pastes or juices
  • cantaloupes and most melons

Vitamin C easily dissolves in water, thus, cooking, canning, and prolonged storage can greatly reduce the vitamin C content in foods.

It’s best to eat vitamin C rich foods raw, or as close to raw as possible.

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