Can You Still Get Scurvy?

If the mention of scurvy sends you on a flashback to elementary school with a vague recollection of toothless pirates, you're on the right track! Although no longer a common disease in the well developed countries of the world, scurvy once ran rampant amongst sailors, not pirates, from the 15th to 18th centuries and again throughout various eras of history, including during the American Civil War (via Medical News Today). So what exactly is this strange sounding disease and can you still get it?

Scurvy is a nutritional disease which occurs from a lack of vitamin C and yes, you can still develop it (via the International Journal of Dermatology). Vitamin C plays an important role in a multitude of bodily functions such as: cholesterol and protein metabolism, iron absorption, wound healing, and the proper formation of collagen, to name a few (via Healthline). Without adequate Vitamin C in the body, multiple organs can become affected and can eventually even lead to death.

Since vitamin C is necessary for many bodily functions, a deficiency can cause varied and vague symptoms. However, these symptoms will not develop immediately but rather progress over time. It can take up to three or four months of continuous severe vitamin C deficiency to develop any of the following symptoms: weakness, fatigue, low grade fever, easy bleeding of the gum tissue, tooth decay, tooth loss, chest pain, gastrointestinal bleeding, bruising, and headaches, to name a few. If left untreated for a prolonged period of time, scurvy can lead to death, severe jaundice or yellowing of the skin, convulsions, delirium, and so much more.

Eating a balanced diet is the key to warding off scurvy

As humans, we can not make vitamin C naturally, so it is critical that we obtain it from our diet and through supplements. The most common risk factor for developing scurvy is consuming a diet devoid of fruits, vegetables, and fortified foods (via Medical News Today). Anorexia, excessive alcohol intake, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and smoking are all additional risk factors of developing the condition. While not common in the modern world, several poorly developed countries still experience widespread scurvy outbreaks.

Vitamin C supplementation is the treatment for scurvy, and most people will notice relief from fatigue and pain within 24 hours of starting treatment. Typically within three months of adequate supplementation, people can make a full recovery. Eating a balanced diet of vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, fortified cereals, cherries, kale and others is preventative and can spare you any tooth loss and unwanted complications (via Healthline).