Ahoy, Scurvy Awareness!
Today is Talk like a Pirate Day, which is a great opportunity to shed some light on scurvy - a disease that is often associated with those who sail the seven seas.
There is a common misconception that scurvy disappeared around the time that plundering villages became socially unacceptable. In reality, scurvy remains a global health issue.
Scurvy is caused by a vitamin C deficiency. While most people have daily access to fresh foods and produce containing vitamin C, this is not the case for everyone. People in developing countries and those living in poverty in developed countries can have a hard time finding natural sources of vitamin C.
Those at higher risk for scurvy include those with eating disorders or mental illnesses, alcoholics and the elderly, when exposed to prolonged dietary deficiencies. Smokers can also fall into this category, as smoking affects the way the body absorbs vitamin C.
The severity of scurvy isn’t the issue, it’s the lack of education surrounding the disease. Most people don’t know the symptoms to look for in themselves or loved ones.
While scurvy is easily treatable, it can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms of scurvy – including fatigue, loss of appetite and muscle pain – are vague and can be associated with many other conditions. Many times, a doctor will go through several other diagnostics before testing the patient’s vitamin C level.
Treatment of scurvy includes vitamin C supplementation and lifestyle changes to incorporate more vitamins into the patient’s daily consumption. Some symptoms, like fatigue, can go away within the first day or so, but others can last longer.
We’re going to need all hands on deck in spreading awareness, so grab some citrus or walk the plank!
You can learn more about scurvy and other conditions like it from the UF Division of Infectious Diseases & Global Medicine.