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First symptoms of early vitamin C deficiency are very general and could also indicate other diseases. They include fatigue, lassitude, loss of appetite, drowsiness and insomnia, feeling run-down, irritability, low resistance to infections and petechiae (minor capillary bleeding).

Severe vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy, characterized by weakening of collagenous structures, resulting in widespread capillary bleeding. Infantile scurvy causes bone malformations. Bleeding gums and loosening of the teeth are usually the earliest signs of clinical deficiency. Hemorrhages under the skin cause extreme tenderness of extremities and pain during movement. If left untreated, gangrene and death may ensue.

Nowadays this is rare in developed countries and can be prevented by a daily intake of about 10-15 mg of vitamin C. However, for optimal physiological functioning much higher amounts are required. Nevertheless, in elderly people in homes and hospitals vitamin C deficiency symptoms are not rare; sometimes even signs of scurvy can be observed.

The development of vitamin C deficiency can be caused by:

  • Inadequate storage and preparation of food
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Stress and exercise
  • Infections
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy and lactation