✓ Evidence Based

9 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency

Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin and potent antioxidant that needs to be a part of your daily intake of nutrients (1, 2).

It helps to protect the body against a buildup of free radicals, oxidative stress (3), and there are many more health benefits of Vitamin C. We must replenish vitamin C daily because it is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it gets excreted through urine.

Severe vitamin C deficiency is also called scurvy. Scurvy is a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency, and it is uncommon (4, 5).

Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms

Although vitamin C deficiency is rare, many people can be insufficient. Even though you may not experience all of these signs and symptoms severely, or perhaps just one or two, there is still a chance you are not getting a sufficient amount of vitamin C.

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency

Do you think you are getting too little vitamin C? Severe vitamin C deficiency causes severe signs and symptoms. Check out the symptoms below:

1. Dry Skin

Vitamin C helps to protect the skin, so too little vitamin C can lead to dry skin over time (6, 7). The skin is the largest organ in the body and needs protection from nutrients and the environment.

This vitamin helps instill skin elasticity, strength, and even ultraviolet radiation (8). Dry skin can occur with too little vitamin C because the skin is not protected.

Vitamin C helps to produce barrier lipids in skin cells, so an adequate amount is necessary to prevent dry skin (9). Vitamin C not only protects against dry skin, but it also helps to prevent sunburn in combination with sunscreen. Be sure to protect the body’s largest organ, the skin, with ample amounts of vitamin C daily.

Summary: Dry skin is commonly caused by vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C helps improve skin elasticity, strength, and prevent against ultraviolet radiation. It’s important for producing barrier lipids in skin cells, which lock in moisture on the skin. When combined with protective sunscreen, vitamin C can also prevent severe sunburns.

 

2. Slow Wound Healing

One of the crucial factors that vitamin C helps with is in wound healing (10, 11). The body has a remarkable ability to heal itself, but if you are severely deficient in this vitamin, wound healing can be slow.

There is a direct connection between vitamin C deficiency and wound healing. Vitamin C allows collagen synthesis to take place, which leads to wound healing (12).

Without vitamin C, wound healing can be slow, which can lead to the formation of keloids and decrease elastin development (13). Be sure that you are getting enough vitamin C in your diet to make sure your body heals properly.

Summary: Vitamin C is very powerful in healing wounds. If the body lacks vitamin C, slow wound healing can occur. Vitamin C promotes collagen synthesis. Collagen is necessary for wound healing to rebuild tissue. Slow wound healing can cause keloid formation, or thick tissue growth on wound sites, and decreased elastin development.

3. Bleeding Gums and Tooth Loss

Another term for bleeding gums is periodontitis. Periodontitis is a slow-progressing severe gum infectious disease that leads to chronic inflammation, gum bleeding, pockets, and more (14, 15). Periodontitis can be a direct factor of lower levels of vitamin C in the blood (16).

With bleeding gums or periodontitis, tooth loss can occur (17), depending on the severity. There are many nutrients necessary to ensure teeth and gum health. Vitamin C is just one that can affect the chances of bleeding gums.

Make sure to eat more foods high in vitamin C if you are experiencing any type of gum issues. Check out the food list below to see where you can add more to your diet.

Summary: Bleeding gums, or periodontitis, is a slow-progressing infectious gum disease that causes chronic inflammation, bleeding, and much more. Tooth loss can also occur if periodontitis is severe. Low vitamin C can cause bleeding gums. If you are experiencing gum issues, increase vitamin C intake to promote good gum health.

4. Frequent Bruising

Do you bruise like a peach? Some people tend to injure more than others, even without much of a reason. If you bruise easily, it can be beneficial to get your blood work checked.

One reason for frequent bruising is low levels of vitamin C (18, 19). Be sure that your doctor checks your vitamin C levels, as it is not a typical routine test unless requested.

In one study, vitamin C supplementation shows a dramatic reduction in extensive bruising (20). That is typically a later stage factor, as is bleeding gums, but it is good to be aware of the implications.

Summary: If you bruise easily, you may need to check your vitamin C levels. Talk to your doctor if this is something you experience often so you can check your levels. Some studies suggest increasing vitamin C intake can reduce extensive bruising.

5. Lowered Immunity

Many know that vitamin C helps to drastically enhance the immune system, warding off many illnesses. It can help to lessen symptoms of the common cold and protect your body from sickness (21, 22).

Many nutrients influence the immune system, and vitamin C is one. Vitamin C protects the body and builds immunity by creating a defense against pathogens that lead to illness (23).

When you feel like you may be catching a cold, vitamin C can be a great go-to to prevent or lessen symptoms of the common cold.

Summary: Vitamin C is very important for proper immune function. It can even help lessen symptoms of the common cold. Vitamin C protects the body by creating a defense against pathogens that leads to illness. If you get sick often, or feel a cold coming on, boost your vitamin C intake.

6. Fatigue

Fatigue is a common symptom of many vitamin deficiencies, but several studies point to the fact that vitamin C supplements or intravenous vitamin C infusions can reduce fatigue (24).

Those in the intravenous study showed significant improvement in fatigue within just two hours after receiving vitamin C infusions.

Vitamin C supplements can also help combat fatigue. Fatigue symptoms can drastically decrease with regular supplementation of vitamin C as well as a change in diet (25).

If you are feeling fatigued lately, be sure you are getting enough crucial vitamins and minerals for energy like vitamin C, B12, and more.

Summary: Fatigue is a common symptom of many deficiencies, and vitamin C is one of them. Increasing vitamin C intake from food and supplements has been shown to reduce fatigue. If you’re feeling tired, focus on boosting vitamin C as well as B12 intake.

7. Mood Changes

Are you noticing a significant change in your moods lately? Vitamin C can have a significant impact on the quality of your mood daily (26, 27).

Although mood changes can vary in their cause, there is some evidence that points to vitamin C deficiency. Micronutrient levels play a role in what your mood is (28).

One study shows that vitamin C deficiency has a direct link to decreased mood, in males between the ages of 18 and 35. Those who had higher vitamin C concentrations in their blood also had improved mood leaves (29).

Summary: Vitamin C is a mood boosting nutrient. Vitamin C deficiency has been linked to mood changes. One particular study showed a direct link in vitamin C deficiency and decreased mood in males.

8. Corkscrew Hairs

Corkscrew hair is a common symptom of scurvy or severe vitamin C deficiency (30, 31). Corkscrew hair is when hairs grow in opposite directions, in a corkscrew type of way.

Bleeding gums is also another common sign that goes along with corkscrew hairs. Vitamin C deficiency sets in after 8 to 12 weeks of insufficient intake. It can even show up as irritability and anorexia in the initial stages (32).

Many of the symptoms above can go hand in hand with corkscrew hairs. Your doctor must give you an evaluation, assess risk factors in your life, and perform a physical examination to determine if you have this symptom.

Summary: Corkscrew hair is when hair grows in opposite directions, resembling a corkscrew. This is a common symptom of scurvy, which is a severe vitamin C deficiency. Generally, bleeding gums goes along with corkscrew hairs, as well as irritability and anorexia in the earlier stages.

9. Anemia

Anemia can occur for many reasons. Lack of iron intake, especially heme iron, is a common cause (33, 34). But vitamin C deficiency can be another factor in anemia.

Vitamin C helps to boost the absorption of iron in the body, so there can be a direct association between anemia and this powerful antioxidant (35).

Those who follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet can benefit from boosting vitamin C foods to maximize the absorption of iron and avoid anemia as well as vitamin C deficiency.

Summary: Lack of iron, especially heme iron, can cause anemia. Heme iron comes from animal sources, non-heme comes from plants. Heme iron absorbs better than non-heme iron. Vitamin C helps boost the absorption of iron, so it is recommended to consume vitamin C and iron together. Those who are vegan or vegetarian and consume mostly non-heme iron sources benefit from eating more vitamin C.

Foods with High Vitamin C Content

Many foods are high in vitamin C. Check out the list below to see where you can start adding more foods high in vitamin C to your diet today (36, 37, 38).

  • Strawberries
  • Kiwi
  • Red bell pepper
  • Sweet and white potatoes
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Winter squash
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Turnip greens
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Cantaloupe
  • Oranges

Is there somewhere you can start adding more vitamin C to your diet? Start with this list today.

Conclusion

Vitamin C deficiency is usually rare, but many people may get insufficient levels daily.

This essential vitamin and antioxidant boost immunity, improve skin health, prevent gum disease, fatigue, mood changes, frequent bruising, and more.

Consider your vitamin levels each year by going for a routine checkup at your healthcare professional. If you are eating a healthy, balanced diet full of vitamin C-rich foods, you should be getting sufficient levels.

Remember to eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and other foods high in vitamin C to meet your daily recommended requirement and reap the benefits.

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, and written, fact-checked & medically reviewed by health experts.

Throughout this article, you'll find scientific references (clickable links to highly trusted peer-reviewed scientific papers, links denoted by the numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3)).