[Scurvy--a mistakenly forgotten disease].Schweiz Med Wochenschr 1994; 124(31-32):1373-80SM
Four cases of scurvy diagnosed within a period of two years are reported. They comprised 2 male patients with heavy nicotine and alcohol abuse, a 35-year-old woman with malnutrition due to food supplements phobia, and a 69-year-old woman with malnutrition due to dementia and social isolation. All four patients were adynamic and anemic. Three patients showed typical dermatologic signs with hemorrhagic hyperceratosis, suffusions or cork-screw hair. Two patients complained of parodontol disorders. Other symptoms were gastrointestinal bleeding, sicca syndrome, retinal bleeding, subdural hematoma, edema and arthralgia. Associated disorders were folic acid and vitamin B12 depletion in two cases, and nephropathy and pneumonia with pneumothorax in one case each. In all cases the serum asorbic acid concentration was below the scorbutic level of 11 mumol/l. Historical data, pathogenesis, incidence, clinical presentation, diagnosis and therapy of scurvy are discussed. We conclude that scurvy can be observed even in a developed country such as Switzerland at the end of the 20th century. The real incidence may be underestimated because symptoms are not well known and disappear rapidly after admission because of sufficient vitamin C content in normal diet. Patients at risk are socially isolated alcoholics, old people, psychiatric patients and diet enthusiasts. Usually scurvy occurs in conjunction with other deficiencies. Smoking and acute illness enhance ascorbic acid depletion. With a knowledge of the symptomatology of scurvy, it is easy to diagnose and treatment is simple and effective.