Vitamin C deficiency: Symptoms & Treatments

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

Vitamin C, present mainly in fruits and vegetables, is essential to the body. It is impossible for the human body to synthesize it. It is then necessary to look for it in food. In sufficient quantities, it keeps the skin, teeth and even cartilage healthy. Vitamin C deficiency leads to illnesses that must be overcome. I reveal to you the symptoms and treatments linked to this problem.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

What is vitamin C deficiency?

Understanding Vitamin C Deficiency

Scurvy is the name given to chronic vitamin C deficiency. Its first traces date back to Egyptian and Greek antiquity. It was noticed among sailors in the 15th and 18th centuries who sailed at sea for a long time. It caused the death of many of them given the irregularity of supplies.

Everything you need to know about vitamin C deficiency.
Chronic vitamin C deficiency or Scurvy

Vitamin C deficiency is the result of low vitamin C content in the body. It can be the cause of many problems such as dysfunction of collagen renewal. In the worst cases, it causes diseases that I will tell you about later.

Victims of lack of vitamin C

Certain categories of people are more exposed to vitamin C deficiency than others, namely:

  • Individuals who cannot afford fruits and vegetables with a high vitamin C content due to their low purchasing power;
  • Individuals who follow drastic diets;
  • Seniors victims of a poorly varied diet;
  • Individuals addicted to drugs and/or alcohol who do not have a balanced diet;
  • People suffering from an illness that prevents them from properly absorbing nutrients and vitamins from food, including ulcerative colitis or Chron’s disease;
  • Pregnant/breastfeeding women (their body requires a higher daily intake of vitamin C);
  • Smokers assimilate vitamin C faster than non-smokers, hence the need to consume more.

Risk factors

Here are the risk factors that can cause vitamin C deficiency:

  • Illnesses like anorexia, or even mental problems;
  • A diet low in food sources of vitamin C;
  • A famine;
  • Age;
  • A diet preventing the consumption of certain fruits and vegetables, due to an allergy;
  • Significant consumption of alcohol or drugs;
  • Late weaning of infants.
Everything you need to know about vitamin C deficiency.
Diseases like anorexia are risk factors for vitamin C deficiency

What are the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency?

Here are common symptoms of a lack of vitamin C:

  • Fatigue: Vitamin C provides the necessary energy your body needs to undertake activities. A lack at this level leads to difficulty concentrating.
  • Lack of appetite: a vitamin C deficiency reduces your appetite: you have less interest in food, even for foods that you like. This is a reason that could be causing the drop in energy.
  • Weight loss: the lack of appetite caused by the disorder leads to significant or non-significant weight loss.
  • Joint pain: a vitamin C deficiency prevents the proper functioning of collagen synthesis. This situation hinders the functioning of the joints. This can cause a tear, arthritis, sprain or tendinitis.
  • Dry skin: a correct intake of vitamin C contributes to the synthesis of collagen, essential for skin health. The latter becomes hydrated and supple when you follow a balanced diet.
  • Nosebleed: blood vessels are weakened due to low vitamin C content in the body. They then become susceptible to rupture leading to bleeding of the mucous membranes in the nose and gums.
  • Irritability: The irritability discussed here is related to the drop in energy caused by vitamin C deficiency. The victim is easily irritated, frustrated and upset until his diet is stable again .
  • Exposure to microbes and diseases: vitamin C helps strengthen the immune system. It is important to consume a sufficient quantity in Winter and Autumn, two seasons when people often get sick.
  • Difficulty healing: abnormal collagen synthesis hinders tissue repair. As a result, healing takes longer.
  • The corkscrew shape of hair: lack of vitamin C damages hair. They are exposed to a fall. Also, they become brittle. It is only months after normal consumption of vitamin C that they will return to their condition.
  • The condition of the nails: spoon-shaped nails with red lines can be signs of deficiency. They become fragile and brittle. Red lines are burst hemorrhage caused by ruptured blood vessels.
  • Tooth loss: prolonged poor condition of the gums is likely to cause dentin weakness responsible for tooth loss.

What are the serious consequences of vitamin C deficiency?

Vitamin C, like minerals and nutrients, plays a fundamental role. Be careful, a significant lack of this vitamin risks leading to diseases such as hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is due to excessive secretion of hormones by the thyroid gland. This situation can cause weight loss, increased appetite and heart palpitation.

Everything you need to know about vitamin C deficiency.
A lack of this vitamin risks leading to diseases such as hyperthyroidism.

It can also be the cause of nervousness, menstrual cycle disorders in women and tremors. Anemia is also among the serious consequences of a lack of vitamin C. The latter participates in the absorption of iron, an essential mineral to prevent anemia. This problem causes the number and quantity of red blood cells to decrease in the blood.

Anemia results in shortness of breath, fatigue, weight loss, dizziness and even paleness.

What to do in case of vitamin C deficiency?

A diagnosis

Three options are possible for diagnosing scurvy, namely:

  • A physical examination: carried out by a health specialist, the diagnosis consists of evaluating the symptoms. It is possible that the patient will be subjected to a questionnaire on their diet, to identify the origin of the problem.
  • A blood test: this is used to measure the vitamin C content in the body.
  • An x-ray of the bones: this type of diagnosis mainly concerns children. It is used to determine the quality of bone growth.


You can prevent the situation from getting worse by waiting to go to a doctor for a diagnosis. It is therefore recommended to adopt a balanced diet composed of foods that are sources of vitamin C.

Everything you need to know about vitamin C deficiency.
Consult a doctor to diagnose a deficiency

Here are some foods where you will find them in interesting quantities:

  • Blackcurrant: 100 g = 140 mg of vitamin C;
  • Red pepper: 125 ml = 95 mg;
  • Kiwi: 100 g = 90 mg;
  • Strawberry: 250 ml = 85 mg;
  • Orange: one fruit = 70 mg;
  • Broccoli: 125 ml = 52 mg;
  • Pineapple: 100 g = 48 mg;
  • Brussels sprouts: 125 ml = 48 mg;
  • Pink grapefruit: half a fruit = 47 mg;
  • Cauliflower: 125 ml = 35 mg.

Note that the recommended daily intake of this vitamin is 90 mg for men, compared to 75 mg for women.

A treatment

One treatment to combat a lack of vitamin C is to consume an ascorbic acid supplement. For adults, it is recommended to administer between 100 to 500 mg three times a day for one to two weeks. Treatment should be stopped when symptoms disappear. Be sure to combine it with a balanced diet. In the case of scurvy, it is necessary to consume the recommended therapeutic intake. The duration of treatment can be one to two weeks, as long as it takes for symptoms to disappear.