Scurvy: historical review and current diagnostic approach

Am J Emerg Med. 2003 Jul;21(4):328-32. doi: 10.1016/s0735-6757(03)00083-4.


Scurvy, a deficiency of vitamin C, now most often occurs in disadvantaged groups seen frequently in EDs: alcoholics with poor nutrition, the isolated elderly, and the institutionalized. Its prominent clinical features are lethargy; purpuric lesions, especially affecting the legs; myalgia; and, in advancing disease, bleeding from the gums with little provocation. Common misdiagnoses are vasculitis, blood dyscrasias, and ulcerative gingivitis. Untreated, scurvy is inevitably fatal as a result of infection or sudden death. Fortunately, individuals with scurvy, even those with advanced disease, respond favorably to administration of vitamin C.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Scurvy / diagnosis*
  • Scurvy / history*