By Gary M. White, MD

Courtesy Eliot Mostow, MD

Scurvy refers the state of vitamin C deficiency and it's medical consequences. Because vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid) plays a critical role in the formation of collagen, (it participates in the peptidyl hydroxylation of procollagen), deficiency of vitamin C leads to collagen that is weak and unstable. This leads to corkscrew hairs, capillary fragility and slow wound healing. In severe cases, scurvy can be fatal with hemopericardium and cerebral hemorrhage as potential causes of death.


Classic manifestations of scurvy include a petechial or purpuric rash, typically with a unique perifollicular distribution. Hairs often take the shape of a cork-screw. Erythematous, swollen gingiva that hemorrhage from subtle microtrauma may be seen. Patients may develop symptoms of scurvy 1-3 months after a diet devoid of vitamin C. Constitutional symptoms can include fatigue, weakness, and malaise.


Adequate vitamin C intake in the diet is curative.


51 year-old man with a Vitamin C allergy and a fast food diet developed scurvy. [Dermatology Online Journal 22(1)]


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