Also referred to as the sailor's disease, a prolonged deficiency of vitamin C is called scurvy. As sailors headed for their months of voyage assignments, they carried along lots of fruits and vegetables. However, when the stock of citrus fruits depleted, the occurrence of scurvy would be seen.
Scurvy is one of the oldest known deficiency diseases, however, its association to deficiency of a vitamin, was discovered not until the twentieth century. Today, the occurrence of this deficiency is rarely seen in the United States. Mostly, it is the elderly or the alcoholics, who live on a diet devoid of citrus fruits and fresh vegetables, are seen to be vulnerable to this deficiency disease.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is necessary for the production of collagen and iron absorption, and since it cannot be synthesized in the body, one needs to consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. A chronic deficiency of this vitamin conduces to scurvy. Moreover, it can also be caused by stress, alcoholism, pregnancy, inflammatory diseases, burns, anorexia, and even ignorance (boiling of fruits).
Symptoms of Scurvy
Scurvy causes a person to appear pale, weak, and frail. Depending on the amount of vitamin C stored in the body, the type of symptom occurring will vary. The different symptoms are as follows:
Mild Scurvy Symptoms
- Muscle and joint pain
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Weight loss
- Overall feeling of being unwell
- Spongy, swollen, and bleeding gums
- Loosening of teeth
- Hair and skin become dry
- Wounds taking a long time to heal
- Skin vulnerable to bruising
- Black and blue spots on thigh and back
Grave Scurvy Symptoms
- Seizures or convulsions
- Fluid retention around the body
- Production of very little urine
- Damage to the nervous system
Scurvy causes the gums to darken, which eventually results in loosening of the teeth, and this is why it needs to be treated quickly. Scurvy can be treated by giving a vitamin C injection, or asking the patient to have vitamin C supplements orally. There are also some natural remedies to replenish the vitamin C levels in the body. They are as follows:
- Eat four Indian gooseberries every day at regular intervals, until the deficiency stabilizes.
- Mix the extract of one lemon in one teaspoon of honey, and add it to a glass of tepid water. Have this twice a day.
- Add half teaspoon of raw mango powder to a glass of water, and have it twice a day.
- For infants, the best remedy is to give the child cow's milk, in addition to breast milk.
- Take dry gooseberry powder and mix it with an equal quantity of powdered sugar. Now, add a teaspoon of this mixture to a glass of milk, and have this solution thrice a day.
- Boil some leaves of jaundice berry in 500 ml water, until the quantity reduces to one third of its original content. Take 2 ml of this concoction and have it everyday.
Adults need about 300-1000 mg of ascorbic acid, while infants need about 50 mg every day to treat scurvy. To prevent this deficiency disease, consume a healthy, well-balanced diet. Make sure fruits such as oranges, lemons, guavas, papayas, strawberries, etc., and vegetables such as broccoli, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, spinach, etc., are included in your diet.