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Vitamin C Deficiency

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General Information

DEFINITION – Illness caused by an inadequate intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for the body to manufacture collagen, connective tissue that helps form healthy bones, teeth and capillaries, and it promotes wound healing.

BODY PARTS INVOLVED – Bones; teeth; gums; capillaries.

SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED – Both sexes; all ages.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

Infants and children:

  • Tender swollen legs. The child prefers to lie with legs partly bent, and cries if moved.
  • Bleeding and bruising under the skin.
  • Anemia.
  • Tender ribs (sometimes).
  • Bleeding gums (if teeth are present).
  • Fever.

Adults:

  • Swollen bleeding gums.
  • Loss of teeth.
  • Rough skin.
  • Bleeding or bruising under the skin or into joints.
  • Weakness and fatigue.
  • Mental changes, including hallucinations and bizarre behavior.

Children and adults:

  • Increased susceptibility to infection.

CAUSES – Diet that is lacking in adequate vitamin C.

RISK INCREASES WITH

  • Improper diet, including following fad diets that don’t include fruits and vegetables.
  • Loss of vitamin C from foods by overcooking or improper or prolonged storage.
  • Maintaining an infant on formula without vitamin supplements.
  • Hyperthyroidism.
  • Pregnancy.

HOW TO PREVENT – Eat a diet rich in vitamin C-containing foods. These include citrus fruits, tomatoes and green vegetables, such as green peppers, broccoli and cabbage. 4 to 6 ounces of orange juice a day provides the minimum daily requirement of vitamin C.

What To Expect

DIAGNOSTIC MEASURES

  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory blood studies, such as: blood counts for anemia; tests for blood levels of vitamin C; and bleeding and clotting tests.
  • X-rays of bones.

APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE

  • Self-care after diagnosis.
  • Doctor’s treatment.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS – Fractures or dislocations, especially in children with tender legs or ribs.

PROBABLE OUTCOME – Curable with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) supplements and a balanced diet that contains foods high in vitamin C. All symptoms and effects, except tooth loss, are reversible. Without treatment, vitamin C deficiency can be fatal.

How To Treat

GENERAL MEASURES – No specific instructions except those listed under other headings.

MEDICATION – Your doctor will prescribe vitamin C tablets. Don’t take more than the prescribed amount. Excessive doses of vitamin C can contribute to kidney-stone formation. If massive doses are suddenly decreased, vitamin C deficiency can result.

ACTIVITY – Handle infants and children carefully to avoid bone or joint injury until the deficiency is corrected.

DIET

  • Eat a well-balanced diet that includes foods rich in vitamin C.
  • Take prenatal vitamin supplements if you are pregnant.
  • Provide your infant with vitamin supplements or vitamin-fortified formula.

Call Your Doctor If

  • You have symptoms of vitamin C deficiency.
  • Symptoms don’t improve in 3 weeks, despite treatment.

From the Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery by H. Winter Griffith, M.D. © 1995 The Putnam Berkley Group, Inc.; electronic rights by Medical Data Exchange.

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