An orange a day keeps the doctor away: scurvy in the year 2000

Pediatrics. 2001 Sep;108(3):E55. doi: 10.1542/peds.108.3.e55.


Scurvy has been known since ancient times, but the discovery of the link between the dietary deficiency of ascorbic acid and scurvy has dramatically reduced its incidence over the past half-century. Sporadic reports of scurvy still occur, primarily in elderly, isolated individuals with alcoholism. The incidence of scurvy in the pediatric population is very uncommon, and it is usually seen in children with severely restricted diets attributable to psychiatric or developmental problems. The condition is characterized by perifollicular petechiae and bruising, gingival inflammation and bleeding, and, in children, bone disease. We describe a case of scurvy in a 9-year-old developmentally delayed girl who had a diet markedly deficient in vitamin C resulting from extremely limited food preferences. She presented with debilitating bone pain, inflammatory gingival disease, perifollicular hyperkeratosis, and purpura. Severe hypertension without another apparent secondary cause was also present, which has been previously undescribed. The signs of scurvy and hypertension resolved after treatment with vitamin C. The diagnosis of scurvy is made on clinical and radiographic grounds, and may be supported by finding reduced levels of vitamin C in serum or buffy-coat leukocytes. The response to vitamin C is dramatic. Clinicians should be aware of this potentially fatal but easily curable condition that is still occasionally encountered among children.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid / blood
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / complications
  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / diagnosis*
  • Ascorbic Acid Deficiency / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Developmental Disabilities / complications
  • Diet
  • Epilepsy / complications
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Radiography
  • Scurvy / diagnosis*
  • Scurvy / drug therapy*
  • Scurvy / etiology


  • Ascorbic Acid