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Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency

By Norma DeVault

A lack of vitamin C in the diet can result in vitamin C deficiency anemia. An acute vitamin C deficiency results in the disease scurvy. Signs and symptoms begin to manifest after 45 to 80 days of vitamin C deprivation. By that time, the body’s stored vitamin C pool falls to about 20 percent of its optimal amount, according to Eleanor Whitney and Sharon Rolfes in “Understanding Nutrition.”

With vitamin C deficiency, lesions occur in loose connective tissue and result in a range of physical and psychological impairments. Treat a vitamin C deficiency with citrus fruit such as orange, lemon or lime or with supplements.


Initial symptoms may include malaise, a general feeling of bodily discomfort or unease, and fatigue possibly resulting from impaired carnitine biosynthesis, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. The body makes carnitine to help transport fatty acids across the membrane in a cellular structure responsible for producing energy.

Bleeding Gums

The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 75 milligrams of vitamin C for adult females age 19 and older. The IOM recommends that adult males age 19 and older take 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day. Notable signs of vitamin C deficiency appear in the mouth as bleeding gums and gingivitis -- inflammation of the gums. Vitamin C helps form a protein needed by your body to build and repair blood vessels. A deficiency in vitamin C weakens blood vessels and connective tissues, according to Linus Pauling Institute.

Loose Teeth

Weakness of bone, cartilage, teeth and connective tissue can result in loose and decaying teeth and eventual tooth loss. Gums are swollen and ulcerated due to defects in the oral epithelial basement membrane and periodontal collagen fiber synthesis, according to Kathleen Mahan, M.S. and Sylvia Escott-Stump, M.A., in “Krause’s Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy." These structural weaknesses and fragile capillaries in the mouth lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.

Pinpoint Hemorrhages

With a vitamin C deficiency, capillaries under the skin may spontaneously break due to the compromised integrity of blood vessels. Capillary breakage and ruptured small blood vessels produce pinpoint hemorrhages. Blood leakage from capillaries forms small red spots, called petechiae.

Dry Rough Skin

The skin may become rough, brown, scaly and dry, according to Eleanor Whitney and Sharon Rolfes in “Understanding Nutrition.” Impaired synthesis of two of its precursors inhibits collagen formation, according to Sareen Gropper, Jack Smith and James Groff in “Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism.”

Wounds Won’t Heal

Wounds fail to heal with a vitamin C deficiency because scar tissue will not form. Impaired wound and fracture healing and easy bruising also may result from a vitamin C deficiency.

Psychological Changes

Various psychological changes including hysteria, hypochondria and depression may result from a severe vitamin C deficiency, according to Kathleen Mahan and Sylvia Escott-Stump in “Krause’s Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy.”

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