Scurvy is still present in developed countries

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Aug;23(8):1281-4. doi: 10.1007/s11606-008-0577-1. Epub 2008 May 6.


Introduction: Scurvy, while uncommon, still occurs in developed countries despite the widespread availability of vitamins and fortified foods. A vitamin C deficiency prevalence of 10 to 14% in adults was reported in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 1994.

Objective: We report the case of a 57-year-old male who presented with a combined vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) and a Zinc deficiency.

Interventions: He came to the emergency department complaining of a painful swollen ecchymotic leg and dyspnea. Prescriptions for narcotics did not relieve his symptoms. When a detailed dietary history was obtained, we added scurvy to the differential diagnosis. An extensive evaluation excluded trauma, coagulopathies, neoplasia, and vasculitides.

Main result: The combination of a classic skin biopsy and a low vitamin C level confirmed the diagnosis.

Conclusion: This presentation illustrates the necessity of including scurvy in the differential diagnosis of ecchymoses and demonstrates specific populations at risk: single adults and the elderly with deficient diets.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Alabama
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Biopsy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Scurvy / diagnosis*
  • Zinc / deficiency*


  • Zinc
  • Ascorbic Acid