Vitamin C deficiency is a real thing — and though rare in most developed countries, it still affects roughly 1 in 5 men and 1 in 9 women. 1
Also known as scurvy, vitamin C deficiency can cause a bunch of health issues that range from anaemia to fatigue, limb pain and even loss of teeth in very severe cases. The bad news is that vitamin C deficiency is often difficult — if not downright impossible — to diagnose.
Keep reading to learn about 8 symptoms of vitamin C deficiency.
1. Iron Deficiency Anaemia
Vitamin C play an important role in the absorption of iron in the body, and low levels of vit C can significantly impact absorption rates. 2, 3, 4 Signs of iron deficiency include fatigue, paleness, headaches, dry skin and trouble breathing during exercise. 5, 6
Insufficient vitamin C intake can also increase your risk of bleeding, which can further contribute to anaemia. 7
2. Weak Immune Function
Higher intakes of vitamin C can help to strengthen your immune system — and it’s probably no surprise that low levels of this micronutrient can, in fact, weaken your immune function. Vitamin C supports the proliferation and function of T lymphocytes, which are the white blood cells that protect us against infection. 8, 9 Without vitamin C, you’re more susceptible to infections and your risk of developing serious illnesses, such as pneumonia, increases. 10, 11, 12
Researchers argue that severe vitamin C deficiency can be fatal. That’s because the immune system is weaker and poorly equipped to fight infections. 13
3. Bleeding Gums and Tooth Loss
Red, swollen or bleeding gums? You might have vitamin C deficiency. When your intake of vit C is inadequate, gum tissue can become weaker and inflamed, which in turn can result in bleeding. 14, 15
If vitamin C deficiency isn’t addressed, your gums can become purple and may appear ‘rotten’. 16 And since the health of your teeth is inherently dependent on the health of your gums, you may experience tooth loss as well. 17, 18
4. Frail Bones
Research links low intakes of vitamin C to an increased risk of fracture and osteoporosis. 19, 20, 21
Surprised? Since vitamin C is fundamental to bone formation, frailty is only to be expected if you’re deficient in this essential micronutrient. 22
The effects of vitamin C deficiency on bone health can be particularly nefarious in children as their skeletons are still growing and developing. 22, 23, 24
5. Joint Pain and Swelling
Joints are complex structures made up of bone, muscles, cartilage and — can you guess? — collagen. Vitamin C can help to stabilise collagen mRNA (short for messenger RNA), increasing collagen synthesis and supporting long-term joint health. 25 On top of that, supplementing with vitamin C can stimulate the proliferation rate of fibroblasts — the cells responsible for producing collagen — which can decrease with age. 26
If you’re vitamin C deficient, you might experience joint pain and swelling. 27 Limping and difficulty walking have been reported in people with severe deficiency. 28, 29, 30
Bleeding within the joins may also occur because of the swelling, which in turn might cause additional pain. 31
6. Slow Wound Healing
We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again: vitamin C is very important to collagen synthesis. If your vit C intake is inadequate, collagen formation can be impacted — and wounds might take longer to fully heal. 25
Scientists found that people with chronic, non-healing leg ulcers are more likely to have vitamin C deficiency compared to those without. 32 And here’s a scary thought — vitamin C deficiency could potentially cause old wounds to reopen, making them more susceptible to infection, too. 33
Poor wound healing is a more advanced sign of vitamin C deficiency and it doesn’t usually occur until you’ve been deficient for several months. 34, 35
7. Dry and Damaged Skin
Your epidermis — the outer layer of your skin — contains large amounts of vit C. 36 Added to which, vitamin C has powerful antioxidant properties that help to protect against oxidative stress, photodamage and environmental pollutants, such as cigarette smoke. 37, 38 And let’s not forget that vitamin C also promotes collagen production, which is key to firm, plump and youthful skin. 39
Studies show that, while high intakes of vitamin C can improve overall skin quality, low intakes can increase the risk of developing dry, wrinkled skin. 40, 41, 42
8. Spoon-Shaped Fingernails
We get it — the idea of spoon-shaped fingernails may be quite extraordinary. While more common in people with iron deficiency anaemia, spoon-shaped fingernails have been linked to vitamin C deficiency frequently in recent years. 43, 44
What’s more, vit C deficiency can cause the blood vessels to rupture more easily, which can lead to splinter haemorrhage — a condition marked by red spots or vertical lines in the nail bed. 45
Are you taking enough vitamin C?
The truth is, you’re probably getting all the vitamin C you need from your diet. Oranges, lemons, blackcurrants, strawberries and potatoes are all excellent sources of vit C, and they’re equally easy to incorporate in your diet.
But if you’re concerned about your vitamin C intake, there’s an easier way to fill the gaps. Vitamin C by Dr Corbyn offers a high-quality, high-strength source of vitamin C formulated to address nutrient shortfalls. Each vegan tablet packs 1,000mg of pure vit C with naturally occurring citrus bioflavonoids and rosehip extract to promote nutrient absorption and give you a powerful antioxidant boost.