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The Role of Vitamin c in Scurvy



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Vitamin C also known as Asorbic acid plays a key role in the prevention of Scurvy.  This is because Scurvy is directly linked with deficiency in Vitamin C.  Just as a deficiency in vitamin C results in Scurvy; vitamin C is also the treatment to cure it.  Even though sufficient Vitamin C is a huge factor in preventing scurvy; eating a nutritious diet is also important.  People who suffer from malnutrition are at risk of getting Scurvy due to the result of lacking nutrients in their diet.  People who have chronic health conditions are also at risk.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C can be ingested in a variety of foods naturally and also as an additive.  Eating nutritious food with vitamin C is the natural way to consume it.  If unable to eat or drink foods rich in Vitamin C; you can still achieve the recommended amounts through Vitamin C supplements.  Having enough Vitamin C helps support a healthy immune system which helps fight diseases.  Vitamin C is crucial in supporting many body functions.  It helps with metabolism and breakdown of cholesterol, support of blood vessels and blood as well as promotes formation of collagen in the body commonly associated with the skin.

Body Areas and Systems Affected by Scurvy

Skin: Scurvy is typically characteristic of visible skin problems associated with a spotted or mottled appearance.  Often the skin will appear bruised around hair follicles and sometimes skin hair will grow out irregularly in a curled appearance. 

Eyes: Dryness and irritation may occur with bleeding

Mouth: Gum tissue issues such as swelling and bleeding, gingivitis, Dental disease can result and can be exacerbated by poor dental hygiene.

Heart: Chest pain

Lungs: Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath

Anemia: insufficient blood produced for the body to function properly.

Musculoskeletal: joint pain with swelling and bleeding

Chronic Health Conditions

People who have chronic Health conditions and/ or receive Dialysis have increase chances at acquiring Vitamin C deficiency leading to Scurvy.  Some of the Chronic conditions include ‘Inflammatory bowel disease (Chroahns Disease), Malabsorption disorders, Severe dyspepsia’ (Ngan, 2010).

Special Health Considerations

If you are receiving dialysis treatment; you may be at more risk to Vitamin C deficiency that leads to scurvy.  In this situation; a supplement of Vitamin C is recommended. ‘Patients who undergo dialysis should receive 500 mg of supplemental vitamin C daily’ (Laumann, Et al., 2009).

Prevention of Scurvy

Eat a nutritious diet: Eat at least 4-6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day or 2-3 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day.  Note: If you follow the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pyramid diet at MyPyramid.gov it follows this recommended daily serving intake.  Also keep in mind that the amounts of foods consumed containing Vitamin C slightly differs according to your age group and gender.    

-Take supplements as needed if unable to eat the recommended fruits and vegetable per day.  Recommended supplements of vitamin C vary depending on the source of research.  Preventive supplementation is typically no more than a 100 mg per day of Vitamin C if you don't have Vitamin C deficiency.  However, taking a regular multivitamin has proven to give the basic vitamin supplementation including Vitamin C.

Treatment

-If you have Scurvy or believe you have Scurvy; see your health care provider and follow their recommendations they give based on your overall health situation. Treatment will typically consist of taking higher amounts of vitamin C for days or weeks by mouth or intravenously (IV) if needed until tissues improve and recovery results.


References

Laumann, A., Minocha, J.S.,  Wong, J.J. (Jan 21st, 2009). Dermatologic Manifestations of Scurvy: Treatment & Medication, Retrieved on March 26th, 2011 from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1104284-treatment

MyPyramid.gov (Feb 22, 2011). MyPyramid.gov, Steps to a Healthier You, Retrieved on March 26th, 2011 from http://www.mypyramid.gov/

Ngan, V. (April 5th, 2010). Scurvy, DermNet NZ, Retrieved on March 26th, 2011 from http://www.dermnetnz.org/systemic/scurvy.html

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