The Full Wiki

Scurvy: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Scurvy

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Classification and external resources

Scorbutic gums, a symptom of scurvy
ICD-10 E54.
ICD-9 267
OMIM 240400
DiseasesDB 13930
MedlinePlus 000355
eMedicine med/2086 derm/521 ped/2073 radio/628
MeSH D012614

Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen in humans. The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is derived from the Latin name of scurvy, scorbutus, which also provides the adjective scorbutic ("of, characterized by or having to do with scurvy"). Scurvy leads to the formation of spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from the mucous membranes. The spots are most abundant on the thighs and legs, and a person with the ailment looks pale, feels depressed, and is partially immobilized. In advanced scurvy there are open, suppurating wounds and loss of teeth.

Scurvy was at one time common among sailors, pirates and others aboard ships at sea longer than perishable fruits and vegetables could be stored (subsisting instead only on cured and salted meats and dried grains) and by soldiers similarly separated from these foods for extended periods. It was described by Hippocrates (c. 460 BC–c. 380 BC), and herbal cures for scurvy have been known in many native cultures since prehistory. Scurvy was one of the limiting factors of marine travel, often killing large numbers of the passengers and crew on long-distance voyages. This became a significant issue in Europe from the beginning of the modern era in the Age of Discovery in the 15th century, continuing to play a significant role through World War I in the 20th century.

Today scurvy is known to be caused by a nutritional deficiency, but until the isolation of vitamin C and its direct link to scurvy in 1932, numerous theories and treatments were proposed, often on little or no experimental data. This inconsistency is attributed to the lack of vitamin C as a distinct concept, the varying vitamin C content of different foods (notably present in fresh citrus, watercress, and organ meat), and how vitamin C can be destroyed by exposure to air and copper.

Treatment by fresh food, particularly citrus fruit, was periodically implemented, as it had been since antiquity, but the ultimate cause of scurvy was not known until 1932, and treatment was inconsistent, with many ineffective treatments used into the 20th century. It was a Scottish surgeon in the British Royal Navy, James Lind who first proved it could be treated with citrus fruit in experiments he described in his 1753 book, A Treatise of the Scurvy,[1] though his advice was not implemented by the Royal Navy for several decades.

In infants, scurvy is sometimes referred to as Barlow's disease, named after Sir Thomas Barlow,[2] a British physician who described it. (N.B. Barlow's disease may also refer to mitral valve prolapse.) Other eponyms include Moeller's disease and Cheadle's disease.

Scurvy does not occur in most animals because they can synthesize their own vitamin C, but humans, other primates, guinea pigs, and a few other species lack an enzyme necessary for such synthesis and must obtain vitamin C through their diet. Vitamin C is widespread in plant tissues, with particularly high concentrations occurring in citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits), tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, and green peppers.



Untreated scurvy is invariably fatal. However, death from scurvy is rare in modern times. Since all that is required for a full recovery is the resumption of normal vitamin C intake, it is easy to treat if identified correctly.


Ascorbic acid is needed for a variety of biosynthetic pathways, by accelerating hydroxylation and amidation reactions. In the synthesis of collagen, ascorbic acid is required as a cofactor for prolyl hydroxylase and lysyl hydroxylase. These two enzymes are responsible for the hydroxylation of the proline and lysine amino acids in collagen. Hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine are important for stabilizing collagen by cross-linking the propeptides in collagen. Defective collagen fibrillogenesis impairs wound healing. Collagen is also an important part of bone, so bone formation is also affected. Defective connective tissue also leads to fragile capillaries, resulting in abnormal bleeding.


Herbal cures for scurvy have been known in many native cultures since prehistory.[citation needed] Scurvy was documented as a disease by Hippocrates.[3] and Egyptians have recorded its symptoms as early as 1550 BC[4]

The knowledge that consuming various foods containing vitamin C are a cure for scurvy has been repeatedly rediscovered and reforgotten into the early 20th century.[5]


Early modern era

In the 13th century, the Crusaders frequently suffered from scurvy. In the 1497 expedition of Vasco de Gama, the curative effects of citrus fruit were known.[5] In 1536, the French explorer Jacques Cartier, exploring the St. Lawrence River, used the local natives' knowledge to save his men who were dying of scurvy. He boiled the needles of the arbor vitae tree (Eastern White Cedar) to make a tea that was later shown to contain 50 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams.[6][7] Such treatments were not available aboard ship, where the disease was most common.

The British civilian medical profession of 1614 believed that it was the acidic principle of citrus fruit which was lacking, although they considered any acid acceptable when ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) was unavailable. In 1614 John Woodall, Surgeon General of the East India Company, published "The Surgion's Mate" as a handbook for apprentice surgeons aboard the company's ships. In it he described scurvy as resulting from a dietary deficiency. His recommendation for its cure was fresh food or, if not available, oranges, lemons, limes and tamarinds, or as a last resort, Oil of Vitriol (sulfuric acid).[8]

18th century

A 1707 handwritten book by Mrs Ebot Mitchell discovered in a house in Hasfield, Gloucestershire contains a "Recp.t for the Scurvy" that consisted of extracts from various plants mixed with a plentiful supply of orange juice, white wine or beer.[9]

In 1734, the Leiden-based physician Johann Bachstrom published a book on scurvy in which he stated that "scurvy is solely owing to a total abstinence from fresh vegetable food, and greens; which is alone the primary cause of the disease" and urged the use of fresh fruit and vegetables as a cure. In 1740, citrus juice (usually lemon or lime juice) was added to the recipe of the traditional daily ration of watered-down rum known as grog to cut down on the water's foulness. Although they did not know the reason at the time, Admiral Edward Vernon's sailors were healthier than the rest of the navy, due to the daily doses of vitamin C the sailors received.[10] However, it was not until 1747 that James Lind formally proved that scurvy could be treated and prevented by supplementing the diet with citrus fruit such as limes or lemons, though not by other acids, in one of the earliest European clinical trials.[1] This solution was not adopted by the Royal Navy until the 1790s, and the idea that any acid would suffice continued in Britain into the late 19th century.

James Cook succeeded in circumnavigating the world (1768–71) in HM Bark Endeavour without losing a single man to scurvy, but his suggested methods, including a diet of sauerkraut and wort of malt, were of limited value. Sauerkraut was the only vegetable food that retained a reasonable amount of ascorbic acid in a pickled state, but it was boiled to reduce it for preservation and much of the vitamin C content was lost. In Cook's time it was impractical to preserve citrus fruit for long sea voyages. More important was Cook's regime of shipboard cleanliness, enforced by strict discipline, as well as frequent replenishing of fresh food.[11] The most effective regime implemented by Cook was his prohibition against the consumption of fat scrubbed from the ship's copper pans, then a common practice in the Navy. In contact with the hot copper, this fat acquired substances which possibly irritated the gut and prevented proper absorption of vitamins.[12]

The first major long distance expedition that experienced virtually no scurvy was that of Alessandro Malaspina, 1789–1794. Malaspina's medical officer, Pedro González, was convinced that fresh oranges and lemons were essential for preventing scurvy. Only one outbreak occurred, during a 56-day trip across the open sea. Five sailors came down with symptoms, one seriously. After three days at Guam all five were healthy again. Spain's large empire and many ports of call made it easier to acquire fresh fruit.[13]

Despite advances, British sailors throughout the American Revolutionary period continued to suffer from scurvy, particularly in the Channel Fleet. The eradication of scurvy from the Royal Navy in the 1790s was finally due to the chairman of the Navy's Sick and Hurt Board, Gilbert Blane, who finally put Bachstrom and Lind's long-ignored prescription of fresh lemons to use during the Napoleonic Wars. Other navies soon adopted this successful solution.[8]

19th century

The surgeon-in-chief of Napoleon's army at the Siege of Alexandria (1801), Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey, wrote in his memoirs that the consumption of horse meat helped the French to curb an epidemic of scurvy. This started the 19th-century tradition of horse meat consumption in France.[14]

Lauchlin Rose patented a method used to preserve citrus juice without alcohol in 1867, creating a concentrated drink known as Rose's lime juice. The Merchant Shipping Act of that same year required all ships of the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy to provide a daily lime ration to sailors to prevent scurvy. The product became nearly ubiquitous, hence the term "limey", first for British sailors, then an English immigrant in the former British colonies (particularly America, New Zealand and South Africa), and finally, in old American slang, all British people.[15]

The plant Cochlearia officanalis, also known as "Common Scurvygrass", acquired its common name from the observation that it cured scurvy, and it was taken on board ships in dried bundles or distilled extracts. Its very bitter taste was usually disguised with herbs and spices; however, this didn't prevent scurvygrass drinks and sandwiches becoming a popular fad in the UK until the middle of the nineteenth century, when citrus fruits became more readily available.[16]

West Indian limes replaced lemons because they were more easily obtained from Britain's Caribbean colonies,[5] and were believed to be more effective because they were more acidic, and it was the acid, not the (then-unknown) Vitamin C that was believed to cure scurvy. This was mistaken – the West Indian limes were significantly lower in Vitamin C than the previous lemons (having only ¼ the Vitamin C content), and further were not served fresh, but rather as lime juice, which had been exposed to air and piped through copper tubing, both of which significantly reduced the Vitamin C. Indeed, an 1918 animal experiment using representative samples of the Navy and Merchant Marine's lime juice showed that it had virtually no antiscorbutic power at all.[5]

The belief that scurvy was fundamentally a nutritional deficiency, best treated by consumption of fresh food, particularly fresh citrus or fresh meat, was not universal in Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and thus British sailors and explorers continued to suffer from scurvy into the 20th century.

In the Royal Navy's Arctic expeditions in the 19th century it was widely believed that scurvy was prevented by good hygiene on board ship, regular exercise, and maintaining the morale of the crew, rather than by a diet of fresh food, so that Navy expeditions continued to be plagued by scurvy even while fresh meat was well-known as a practical antiscorbutic among civilian whalers and explorers in the Arctic.

The confusion is attributed to a number of factors:[5]

  • while fresh citrus (particularly lemons) cured scurvy, lime juice that had been exposed to air and copper tubing did not – thus undermining the theory that citrus cured scurvy;
  • fresh meat (especially organ meat, consumed in arctic exploration) also cured scurvy, undermining the theory that fresh produce was essential to preventing and curing scurvy;
  • increased marine speed via steam shipping, and improved nutrition on land, reduced the incidence of scurvy – and thus the ineffectiveness of copper-piped lime juice compared to fresh lemons was not immediately revealed.

In the resulting confusion, a new hypothesis was floated, following the new germ theory of disease – that scurvy was caused by ptomaine, a waste product of bacteria, particularly in tainted tinned meat.

Infantile scurvy emerged in the late 19th century due to children being fed pasteurized cow's milk, particularly in the urban upper class – the pasteurization killed bacteria, but also destroyed vitamin C. This was eventually resolved by supplementing with onion juice or cooked potatoes.

20th century

At the time Robert Falcon Scott made his two expeditions (1903 and 1911) to the Antarctic in the early 20th century, the prevailing theory was that scurvy was caused by "tainted" meat, particularly tinned meat.[17] Accordingly, Scott's expeditions suffered from scurvy, though he initially did not record this in his notes on his 1903 expedition, due to stigma associated with scurvy.[5]

Vilhjalmur Stefansson, an arctic explorer who lived among the Eskimos, proved that the all meat diet they consumed did not lead to vitamin deficiencies. He participated in a study in New York's Bellevue Hospital in 1935, where he and a companion ate nothing but meat for a year while under close medical observation, yet remained in good health.[18] Some Antarctic expeditions, such as Scott's two expeditions and Shackleton's Ross Sea party, suffered from scurvy, mainly during inland sledge journeys when the men had access to very limited range of food, virtually none of it fresh. Scurvy was rare or absent when they had access to a wider range of stored food or relied on seal meat.[17][19][20]

Refined carbohydrates seem to accelerate the process of depleting vitamin C. Insulin in the bloodstream causes all amino acids, except for tryptophan, to be stored as fat. Tryptophan competes to enter the bloodstream, causing less vitamin C to be available to the body. This could be one reason sailors and explorers, with their rations heavy with hard tack biscuits and refined carbohydrates, were so prone to scurvy.

Scurvy was finally established as a nutritional deficiency when Axel Holst and Theodor Frolich used guinea pigs in animal trials of beriberi (another nutritional deficiency). Guinea pigs are one of the few animals to not synthesize vitamin C, so when fed an all-grain diet, they did not exhibit beriberi, but did exhibit scurvy. Scurvy had not been recorded in animals before, and with an animal model at hand, it became a simple matter of isolating the nutrient.

In 1927, Hungarian biochemist Szent-Györgyi (who won the 1937 Nobel Prize for Medicine) for his studies in the biological functions of the compound "hexuronic acid" (vitamin C) while working with antioxidant compounds in the adrenal cortex.[21] It was not until 1932 that the connection between vitamin C and scurvy was established by American researcher Charles Glen King of the University of Pittsburgh.[22]

Modern incidence

Scurvy or subclinical scurvy is caused by the lack of vitamin C. In modern western society, scurvy is rarely present in adults, although infants and elderly people are affected.[23] Vitamin C is destroyed by the process of pasteurization, so babies fed with ordinary bottled milk sometimes suffer from scurvy if they are not provided with adequate vitamin supplements. Virtually all commercially available baby formulas contain added vitamin C for this reason, but heat and storage destroy vitamin C. Human breast milk contains sufficient vitamin C, if the mother has an adequate intake.

Scurvy is one of the accompanying diseases of malnutrition (other such micronutrient deficiencies are beriberi or pellagra) and thus is still widespread in areas of the world depending on external food aid.[24] Though rare, there are also documented cases of scurvy due to poor dietary choices by people living in industrialized nations.[25][26][27][28]


Scurvy can be prevented by a diet that includes certain citrus fruits such as oranges or lemons. Other sources rich in vitamin C are fruits such as blackcurrants, guava, kiwifruit, papaya, tomatoes, bell peppers, and strawberries. It can also be found in some vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, potatoes, cabbage, spinach and paprika. Some fruits and vegetables not high in vitamin C may be pickled in lemon juice, which is high in vitamin C. Many animal products, including liver and oysters, contain vitamin C. Though redundant in the presence of a balanced diet,[29] various nutritional supplements are available that provide ascorbic acid well in excess of that required to prevent scurvy, and even some candies and most soft drinks contain vitamin C as a preservative.

Scurvy in animals

Like humans, other primates, fruit bats, and guinea pigs incorrectly create one enzyme (L-gulonolactone oxidase) to make vitamin C and thus require vitamin C in the diet to prevent the development of scurvy.

See also

Further reading

  1. SCURVY: How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentleman Discovered the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail by Stephen R. Bown. Published by Thomas Dunne Books 2004.
  2. The history of scurvy & vitamin C. by Kenneth J. Carpenter. Published by Cambridge University Press 1986.
  3. Cegłowski, Maciej (March 7, 2010), Scott and Scurvy, 


  1. ^ a b Lind, James (1753). A Treatise on the Scurvy. London: A. Millar. 
  2. ^ Evans PR (December 1983). "Infantile scurvy: the centenary of Barlow's disease". Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 287 (6408): 1862–3. doi:10.1136/bmj.287.6408.1862. PMID 6423046. 
  3. ^ Stone I (1966). "On the genetic etiology of scurvy". Acta Genet Med Gemellol (Roma) 15 (4): 345–50. PMID 5971711. 
  4. ^ Bradley S Buckler MD, Anjali Parish MD. "Scurvy". eMedicine. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f (Cegłowski 2010)
  6. ^ Jacques Cartier's Second Voyage , 1535 Winter & Scurvy
  7. ^ Martini E (2002). "Jacques Cartier witnesses a treatment for scurvy". Vesalius 8 (1): 2–6. PMID 12422875. 
  8. ^ a b Bown, Stephen R. "SCURVY: How a Surgeon, a Mariner and a Gentleman Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail", Viking 2003
  9. ^ Telegraph newspaper, 5th March 2009,
  10. ^ "The Blood of Nelson" by Glenn Barnett — Military History — Oct 2006
  11. ^ Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe (2006). Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration. W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 297. ISBN 0-393-06259-7. 
  12. ^ BBC  — History — Captain Cook and the Scourge of Scurvy
  13. ^ Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe (2006). Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration. W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 297–298. ISBN 0-393-06259-7. 
  14. ^ Larrey is quoted in French by Dr Béraud, Études Hygiéniques de la chair de cheval comme aliment, Musée des Familles (1841-42).
  15. ^ Simpson, J and Weiner, E: "The Oxford English Dictionary", Oxford University Press, 1989
  16. ^ Mabey, Richard (1972). Food for free. Collins. pp. 93,94. ISBN 9780007247684. 
  17. ^ a b Scott, Robert F."The Voyage of the Discovery", John Murray, London, 1929
  18. ^
  19. ^ Shackleton Ernest"South: The Endurance Expedition", Penguin Books, 2008
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Carpenter, Kenneth J. (2004-06-22). "The Nobel Prize and the Discovery of Vitamins". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  22. ^ "The Albert Szent-Gyorgyi Papers Szeged, 1931-1947: Vitamin C, Muscles, and WWII". U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  23. ^ Hampl JS, Taylor CA, Johnston CS (2004). "Vitamin C deficiency and depletion in the United States: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988 to 1994". Am J Public Health 94 (5): 870–5. doi:10.2105/AJPH.94.5.870. PMID 15117714. PMC 1448351. 
  24. ^ WHO (June 4, 2001) (PDF). Area of work: nutrition. Progress report 2000. 
  25. ^ Davies IJ, Temperley JM (1967). "A case of scurvy in a student". Postgraduate Medical Journal 43 (502): 549–50. doi:10.1136/pgmj.43.502.539. PMID 6074157. 
  26. ^ Sthoeger ZM, Sthoeger D (1991). "[Scurvy from self-imposed diet]" (in Hebrew). Harefuah 120 (6): 332–3. PMID 1879769. 
  27. ^ Ellis CN, Vanderveen EE, Rasmussen JE (1984). "Scurvy. A case caused by peculiar dietary habits". Arch Dermatol 120 (9): 1212–4. doi:10.1001/archderm.120.9.1212. PMID 6476860. 
  28. ^ McKenna KE, Dawson JF (1993). "Scurvy occurring in a teenager". Clin. Exp. Dermatol. 18 (1): 75–7. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2230.1993.tb00976.x. PMID 8440062. 
  29. ^ Rivers JM (1987). "Safety of high-level vitamin C ingestion". Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 498: 445–54. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1987.tb23780.x. PMID 3304071. 

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SCURVY (Scorbutus), a constitutional disease, characterized by debility, morbid conditions of the blood, spongy gums, impairment of the nutritive functions, and the occurrence of haemorrhagic extravasations in the tissues of the body. In former times this disease was extremely common among sailors, and gave rise to a frightful amount of mortality. It is now, however, of rare occurrence at sea, the simple means of prevention being well understood. Scurvy has also frequently broken out among soldiers on campaign, in beleaguered cities, as well as among communities in times of scarcity, and in prisons, workhouses and other public institutions. In all such instances it has been found to depend closely upon the character of the food. The precise etiology is obscure, and the modern tendency is to suspect an unknown micro-organism; on the other hand, even among the more chemical school of pathologists, it is disputed whether the cause (or conditio sine qua non) is the absence of certain constituents in the food, or the presence of some actual poison. Sir Almroth Wright in 1895 published his conclusions that scurvy was due to an acid intoxication, while Torup of Christiania believes it to be a direct poisoning from damaged and badly preserved meat. Dr Jackson and Dr Harley support this latter view, contending that scurvy occurs when meat is eaten in this condition, even when lime juice and vegetables are given in conjunction with it. The palmy days of the disease were those when sailors and soldiers had to fare on salt meat and "hard tack," or were deprived of fresh vegetables; and the fact that scurvy has been practically abolished by the supply of these latter has led to the association of this factor with the disease as a ver y causa. But how the defect in vegetable diet produces scurvy is not quite clear; nor how far other conditions may be involved.

The symptoms of scurvy come on gradually, and its onset is not marked by any special indications beyond a certain failure of strength, most manifest on making effort. Breathlessness and exhaustion are thus easily induced, and there exists a corresponding mental depression. The countenance acquires a sallow or dusky hue; the eyes are sunken; while pains in the muscles of the body and limbs are constantly present. The appetite and digestion may be unimpaired in the earlier stages and the tongue comparatively clean, but the gums are tender and the breath offensive almost from the first. These preliminary symptoms may continue for weeks, and in isolated cases may readily escape notice, but can scarcely fail to attract attention where they affect large numbers of men. In the further stages of the disease all these phenomena are aggravated in a high degree and the physical and mental prostration soon becomes extreme. The face looks haggard; the gums are livid, spongy, ulcerating and bleeding; the teeth are loosened and drop out; and the breath is excessively foetid. Extravasations of blood now take place in the skin and other textures. These may be small like the petechial spots of purpura, but are often of large amount and cause swellings of the muscles in which they occur, having the appearance of extensive bruises and tending to become hard and brawny. These extravasations are most common in the muscles of the lower extremities; but they may be formed anywhere, and may easily be produced by very slight pressure upon the skin or by injuries to it. In addition, there are bleedings from mucous membranes, such as those of the nose, eyes and alimentary or respiratory tracts, while effusions of blood-stained fluid take place into the pleural, pericardial or peritoneal cavities. Painful, extensive and destructive ulcers are also apt to break out in the limbs. Peculiar disorders of vision have been noticed, particularly night blindness (nyctalopia), but they are not invariably present, nor specially characteristic of the disease. The further progress of the malady is marked by profound exhaustion, with a tendency to syncope,and with various complications, such as diarrhoea and pulmonary or kidney troubles, any or all of which may bring about a fatal result. On the other hand, even in desperate cases, recovery may be hopefully anticipated when the appropriate remedy can be obtained. The composition of the blood is materially altered in scurvy, particularly as regards its albumen and its red corpuscles, which are diminished, while the fibrine is increased.

No disease is more amenable to treatment both as regards prevention and cure than scurvy, the single remedy of fresh vegetables or some equivalent securing both these ends. Potatoes, cabbages, onions, carrots, turnips, &c., and most fresh fruits, will be found of the greatest service for this purpose. Lime juice and lemon juice are recognized as equally efficacious, and even vinegar in the absence of these will be of some assistance. The regulated administration of lime juice in the British navy, which has been practised since 1795, has had the effect of virtually extinguishing scurvy in the service, while similar regulations introduced by the British Board of Trade in 1865 have had a like beneficial result as regards the mercantile marine. It is only when these regulations have not been fully carried out, or when the supply of lime juice has become exhausted, that scurvy among sailors has been noticed in recent times. Wright has proposed giving what he terms anti-scorbutic elements (Rochelle salt, calcium chloride or lactate of sodium) instead of raw materials such as lime juice and vegetables, as being more convenient to carry on voyages. Besides the administration of lime or lemon juice and the use of fresh meat, milk, cider, &c., which are valuable adjuvants, the local and constitutional conditions require the attention of the physician. The ulcers of the gums and limbs can be best treated by stimulating astringent applications; the hard swellings, which are apt to continue long, may be alleviated by fomentations and frictions; while the anaemia and debility are best overcome by the continued administration of iron tonics, aided by fresh air and other measures calculated to promote the general health.

Infantile Scurvy (Scurvy Rickets, Barlow's disease), a disease of childhood due to a morbid condition of the blood and tissues from defects of diet, was first observed in England in 1876 by Sir T. Smith, and later fully investigated by Sir Thomas Barlow. The chief symptoms are great and progressive anaemia, mental apathy, spongy gums, haemorrhages into various structures, particularly under the periosteum and muscles, with suggestive thickenings round the shafts of the long bones, producing a state of pseudoparalysis.

<< Sculpture

Scutage >>

Simple English

Scurvy is a disease. It is caused by not eating enough Vitamin C.

People who have scurvy get spots on their skin, especially the legs. Their teeth may become loose and fall out. They may bleed from the mouth, nose, and gums (mucous membranes). A person with scurvy will look pale. They will feel sad (see depression). They will not be able to move easily, because their joints hurt.

In the past, sailors used to get scurvy because fresh fruit and meat could not be kept for as long as they were at sea. Almost nobody gets scurvy now in rich countries.


How to tell if someone has scurvy

At first, a person with scurvy may:

  1. Not want to eat (loss of appetite)
  2. Feel sad (slight depression)
  3. Lose weight or not get heavier even though they eat a lot
  4. Loose faeces (diarrhea)
  5. Breath fast (tachypnea)
  6. Be hot (have a high body temperature or fever)

A bit later a person with scurvy may:

  1. Feel angry (irritability)
  2. Have pains in the legs (and tenderness)
  3. Find it hard to move (pseudo paralysis)
  4. Have swelling of the arms and legs
  5. Bleed from the mouth, nose and gums

Why people got scurvy

  1. Not eating enough food that has vitamin C
  2. Going on a long trip, often at sea, where there is no fresh food
  3. Not having enough food (famine)
  4. Eating the wrong kinds of food
  5. Spoiling food by cooking it badly (like boiling fruit juice)

Treatment of scurvy

  1. Eating vitamin C pills or giving it by needle (injection, also known as a shot). The injection almost always cures scurvy in babies.
  2. Drinking orange juice is another treatment and works in babies. Before vitamin C was discovered this was the only treatment.

When a person gets help for scurvy, they usually get better very quickly. Babies start eating again after one or two days of help. The symptoms get better within seven days.

Getting vitamin C from food

Eating vitamin C prevents scurvy. How much vitamin C a person needs changes with his or her age and is different for pregnant and lactating women. The following is the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council's advice on how much vitamin C to eat every day:

  • Infants (Babies): 30-40 mg
  • Children and adults: 45-60 mg
  • Pregnant women: 70 mg
  • Mothers breast feeding: 90-95 mg

Foods with a lot of vitamin C include the following:

  • Citrus fruits (for example: oranges, limes, grapefruits)
  • Berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address