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Health Problems And Diseases Caused By Vitamin C Deficiency

Health Disorders Caused By Vitamin C Deficiency

A vitamin C deficiency put you at increased risk of gingivitis or early gum disease, skin problems like petechiae and purpura, osteoporosis and bone development problems. Even iron deficiency anemia can result from this deficiency. If you leave it untended, you may even wind up with scurvy in a few months’ time.

Vitamin C is a nutrient that’s crucial to the health of your body. You need it for normal growth and development, as well as to keep up the health of your body’s skin and bones and connective tissue. An immune-boosting nutrient, it helps with healing as well. No wonder then a deficiency can interfere with the optimal functioning of your body.

Because it is an antioxidant vitamin, vitamin C helps counter free radical damage responsible for aging and may even help ward off or lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.1 2

By getting in those recommended levels of vitamin C, you can sidestep many diseases. This could range from the seemingly harmless like brittle nails to the more severe like iron deficiency anemia. Typically very overt symptoms or problems because of a deficiency only appear after consistent inadequate intake over a prolonged period. As a rule of thumb, this will happen if daily intake is below 10 mg over several weeks.3 Here’s a ready and detailed reckoner of the potential problems you could face from a prolonged vitamin C deficiency.

1. Gingivitis And Dental Problems

Gingivitis or early stage gum disease can crop up if you are not getting enough vitamin C.4 It results in the tissues surrounding your teeth getting infected. Here are some symptoms to spot this problem:5

  • Easily bleeding gums
  • Gums that are tender
  • Swollen gums
  • Bad breath

A vitamin C deficiency may also cause your tooth enamel to weaken, putting you at increased risk of cavities.6

2. Iron Deficiency Anemia

Vitamin C, among other things, also helps your body better absorb iron.7 If you have a continued deficiency of the vitamin, you could also wind up with iron-deficiency anemia.8 Signs of this form of anemia include:

  • Weakness or tiredness that is not usual
  • Trouble with concentration/thinking
  • Headaches
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Brittle nails
  • Pica or desire to eat non-food things like dirt, ice, or sand
  • Soreness of the tongue

3. Skin Problems Like Petechiae Or Purpura

Vitamin C plays such a central role in maintaining healthy connective tissue in the body, so not getting enough can start to show signs on your skin. You may develop blue or red spots on the shins or on other areas of your skin – these are called petechiae. You may also find purple patches or spots on the skin, in mucous membranes, and in the mouth – these are known as purpura. In addition, you may notice you develop bruises more easily than before.9

4. Scurvy

One of the most major diseases caused by iron deficiency is scurvy, though it is less common in the developing world where access to nutrition is not as much of a problem. But if you are someone who has food that’s limited in its variety, you might be at risk. Symptoms of scurvy usually occur after inadequate vitamin C intake for at least 3 months. Here’s what you should watch for:10 11

  • Weakness/tiredness all the time
  • Joint/leg pain that’s severe
  • Being irritable
  • Feeling sad
  • Bruising easily
  • Petechiae (blue/red spots)
  • Purpura (purple patches/spots)
  • Swelling or bleeding in the gums
  • Loosening of teeth, loss of teeth
  • Corkscrew hairs
  • Poor wound healing
  • Thickening of the skin (hyperkeratosis) which may result in warts, corns, or calluses

5. Osteoporosis And Bone Problems

While scurvy causes joint pain in adults, it could lead to impaired bone development in babies and young children. They may experience symptoms like lower limb pain as a result of bleeding within the joints.12

Structural collagen alterations and greater breakdown of bone result in swollen and painful joints and muscular pain in those with a severe vitamin C deficiency or scurvy. It may also result in your developing osteoporosis or weak bones that are prone to fracture or breakage. There could also be a link to osteoarthritis though research in that area is still very much a work in progress.13

6. Other Problems Linked To A Vitamin C Deficiency

In addition to these diseases, you may also spot other problems that could even help you flag the problem early and ward off a more severe issue like scurvy or anemia. Here are some health issues that double up as signs of a vitamin C deficiency:14

  • Increased susceptibility to falling ill/catching infections
  • Longer time for wounds to heal
  • Splitting hair or dry hair
  • Dry and scaly or rough skin
  • Nosebleeds
  • Sluggish metabolism resulting in weight gain

People With Poor Nutrition, Digestive Disorders, Smokers, The Elderly And Very Young At Risk

Those who are undergoing chemotherapy or have lost their appetite for other reasons, have anorexia, eat a poor diet with inadequate vitamin C, are pregnant or breastfeeding are more at risk of this particular problem. Smoking reduces your ability to absorb vitamin C from your diet, so smokers are at risk too. Also vulnerable are people with digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease, the elderly, drug or alcohol addicts, and young children and babies who aren’t getting enough vitamins.15

Avoid A Deficiency By Ensuring You Have 75–90 mg Of Vitamin C Daily

Your body needs about 90 mg of vitamin C daily if you are an adult male and 75 mg if you are female. Pregnant women need 85 mg a day while lactating mothers require even more (120 mg).16 Anyone recovering from surgery or burns could also do with a little more vitamin C to aid healing. Smokers too can benefit from higher vitamin C intake.17 Get in your vitamin C easily from a wide range of foods including citrus fruit, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, peppers, and even from fortified juices and cereals.

References   [ + ]

1, 4, 6, 14. Vitamin C. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
2, 3, 8, 9, 11. Vitamin C. Office of Dietary Supplements.
5. Gingivitis. American Dental Association.
7. Vitamin C. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
10, 15. Scurvy. National Health Service.
12, 13. Fain, Olivier. “Musculoskeletal manifestations of scurvy.” Joint Bone Spine 72, no. 2 (2005): 124-128.
16. Vitamin C. Office of Dietary Supplements.
17. Vitamin C. U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.