What are the Symptoms of Scurvy?

Garry Crystal

Scurvy is probably best known as a condition that once affected sailors on long sea voyages. There is one cause of this condition, and that is an inadequate amount of vitamin C in the diet. Sailors used to take large amounts of fruit — usually lemons — onto their ships, and when the fruit ran out, scurvy could set in. Some of the common symptoms of this condition include pale skin with reddish or purple spots, sunken eyes, tender gums, internal bleeding and diarrhea.

Scurvy can cause dry skin and hair.
Scurvy can cause dry skin and hair.

This condition occurs when the body has depleted its store of vitamin C. The exact time scale for the condition to appear depends on how much vitamin C the body has stored. After the intake of vitamin C has ceased, scurvy can set in within anywhere from a week to three months.

Scurvy causes wounds, cuts, and bruises to take much longer to heal.
Scurvy causes wounds, cuts, and bruises to take much longer to heal.

The symptoms of scurvy include a number of ailments within the body. Sufferers can feel extremely fatigued as well as nauseated. They might also experience an overall feeling of discomfort, and pain will be felt in the muscles and joints of the body.

Aside from tender gums, scurvy can cause loosened teeth and swelling and bleeding in the gums.
Aside from tender gums, scurvy can cause loosened teeth and swelling and bleeding in the gums.

If the sufferer has cuts or wounds, they might take a long time to heal properly. In the mouth area, the teeth might become loose, and there may be some swelling and bleeding in the gums. The hair and skin will become dry.

Lemons are a good source of vitamin C, which can help prevent scurvy.
Lemons are a good source of vitamin C, which can help prevent scurvy.

Another major symptom is bleeding into the body’s muscles and joints, such as in the knees and arms. This symptom is extremely painful. If scurvy appears in a child, it can have consequences on the child’s natural growth. Thin tissue that encases the child’s bones will begin to bleed, causing pain and growth irregularities.

Scurvy is not as common as it once was. Vitamin C can easily be obtained from fruits, vegetables and drinks, including fresh milk. The body needs vitamin C to maintain healthy skin and bones. It also ensures healthy growth in the hair and helps heal any wounds, cuts or bruises.

Some people are more susceptible to an insufficiency of this important vitamin. Older people might be lacking in it, and people who live in poor countries might not be able to obtain the vitamin easily. A diet that is low in vitamin C is the biggest risk factor for scurvy. Scurvy can be diagnosed by a simple blood test. If there is a deficiency in the vitamin C levels in the white blood cells, then adequate treatment will be required.

This condition is easily treated. Improving the diet to strengthen the levels of vitamin C is all that is necessary. The symptoms should disappear within a day to a few weeks. Maintaining a diet that is rich in vitamin C will prevent any further attacks of this condition.

People with scurvy commonly feel extremely fatigued.
People with scurvy commonly feel extremely fatigued.

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Discussion Comments


I saw an article called, "How Your Body Uses Vitamin C" that I found to be very concise and helpful.

It's a starting point to more information on the subject of just how important vitamin C is to the body's functioning. Basically, if your body isn't getting enough C, it will mean a rough time in so many other ways.

As a side note, some people struggle more than others to maintain adequate vitamin C levels by diet alone. Especially when one takes into consideration how long some food sits around before being eaten, and that absorption of vitamin C from conventional supplementation of processed foods and self-administered ascorbic acid powder can be relatively low.

Liposomal vitamin C is great to consider in lieu of other methods of supplementation. There is much less chance of digestive discomfort, and the absorption rate is much, much higher. Some people use organic cold-pressed soy lecithin in the process. I use organic cold-pressed sunflower lecithin, because I am sensitive to soy.

Speaking of the topic of allergies - I am curious as to how being better nourished with nutrients might affect my many allergies and sensitivities. I am relatively early on in my vitamin supplementation/health journey, so I suppose time will tell. Until then, more endless research into this beautiful world. Best of luck everyone!


I heard that the symptoms of ebola are the same as that of massive Vitamin C deficiency and that ebola could be cured by massive doses of Vitamin C. Hmmmm.


Are those all the symptoms? Are there more?


Doing further research show that the symptoms do start out with loose gums, muscles weaken and teeth do decay, but scurvy is easy to cure and easy to control. Like what was said above: eat more fruits with vitamin C and see if helps. If not, consult a doctor.


Donna, sounds more like celiac disease than scurvy. Only way to diagnose that is through a biopsy. And the only cure for that is a gluten free diet. Good luck to you.


I'm not going to list my symptoms, because I have scurvy. I'm also allergic to vitamin c.


I have been getting bad abdominal pains from near my groin to my ribcage, i have had loose teeth and slight gum bleeding and I have been feeling quite nauseated for a couple of weeks. do i need to see my gp?


i have bad pain in my stomach. i get bruises on my legs. I heard on the radio that these could be symptoms.


You should all see your GP.


Eat more fruit or take a vit-c suplement. Scurvy is an easy condition to treat. Take in vit-c and it's gone. It's not a disease as such. It's a symptom of the lack of vit-c so if you think you have this, consume more vit-c.


Everyone lists their symptoms in the comments and wants somebody to tell them if they have scurvy. Well, the cure for scurvy is taking vitamin C! So go get a vitamin C supplement, or eat an orange every day, and if you get better, maybe that was it. If not, go to the doctor.


My teeth are loose, my gums are swollen, I'm tired all the time, and now my stomach hurts. My doctor said I'm dangerously low on calcium.


I have an old scar that got extremely itchy and, after scratching it, it turned into a much bigger red blotch. It's been years and still looks like a new wound. I've been to the dermatologist with no cure, but wondered if they missed something. I read about scurvy and old wounds. Could this be a symptom?


i have very dry skin latley and my dad got sick and medicine didn't help. Is this scurvy? --



so i have dry skin all the time. i never eat fruits or vegetables or anything healthy. i've been having really bad, non-stop headaches and always feeling sick and my wounds do take longer to heal, but no bleeding or swelling -- so would that be scurvy?


Well scurvy seems more serious than I thought! Who knew what homework can teach you!


it might be typhus.


Not sure if this posted the first time, but I got a red itch rash about 10 days ago. Red flat spots with tiny red bumps everywhere. Antihistamines are barely helping, now I notice bruises on my legs and I have not injured myself. Is this scurvy? I am weak and tired and have history of resection of large and small intestine. As a result of the removal of 9 ft of intestine, I have pernicious anemia. Help, Donna


I saw on a tv program that scurvy can cause a bad rash. Is this true and what does the rash look like?

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