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8 signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency


We’ve all heard about the importance of vitamins and nutrients in maintaining good health. Among these essential players, vitamin C takes a spot in the limelight, known for its immune-boosting powers and role in skin health. But what happens when you are not giving enough vitamin C, and as a result, you face vitamin C deficiency? What signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency can alert you to take the necessary precautions to prevent it? 

signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency

Let’s dive into the world of vitamin C deficiency and uncover the 10 subtle signs that your body might be giving you vitamin C SOS.

Why Vitamin C Matters

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerhouse nutrient that the body needs to function properly. It is a vital water-soluble vitamin that works as an antioxidant. It’s like a superhero, helping make collagen, processing important substances, and even helping our bodies absorb iron from food. Since our bodies can’t make it independently, we need to get vitamin C from foods like citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, potatoes, and leafy greens. It’s like a booster shot for our health from our food!

The Reality Check: Who’s at Risk?

Vitamin C deficiency typically is not common, but when our bodies don’t get enough or need more due to certain situations, certain people are at risk. So, let’s do a reality check and determine who’s at risk. It’s more common in people like the elderly and those with conditions such as alcohol use disorder, anorexia, or cancer. People who follow trendy diets or think they have food allergies and those on specific diets due to issues like inflammatory bowel disease or reflux are also at risk.

Even smokers and those taking certain meds like aspirin, tetracyclines, and corticosteroids might face this concern. If you have kidney issues, are on certain treatments, or had a liver transplant, you might need extra attention, too.

8 signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency 

Bright red hair follicles and Corkscrew-shaped body hair

Although it is invisible, numerous tiny blood vessels on the skin’s surface supply blood and nutrition to the hair follicles. When deficient in Vitamin C, the body impairs collagen production, affecting hair follicles and blood vessels. This leads to disrupted collagen structure, causing bright red hair follicles and other skin issues seen in scurvy, such as corkscrew hair. 

As observed in the research, supplementing the patient with vitamin C and replenishing to normal vitamin C levels can cure the perifollicular hemorrhage

Vitamin C deficiency Spoon-shaped nail

Koilonychia, or spoon-shaped nails, is a condition where nails become thin, brittle, and concave, either horizontally or vertically. This deformity shows a central depression and lateral curling of the nail plate.

Vitamin C deficiency and other minerals like zinc, copper, selenium, etc. can cause spoon-shaped nail abnormalities

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In vitamin C deficiency, reduced collagen synthesis weakens blood vessel walls. This causes vascular congestion in the lower extremities, leading to perifollicular hemorrhage and edema. Nail bed blood vessels become fragile, resulting in splinter hemorrhages, eventually spoon-shaped nails.

Rough, Bumpy Skin

Collagen, composed of amino acids, plays a crucial role in skin health. Its strength and resistance to stretching make it an ideal framework for maintaining the skin’s structural integrity and tendons, bones, and ligaments within the body’s connective tissues. Nonetheless, for the production of collagen, vitamin C plays a key role. Hence, maintaining normal levels is essential for the functioning of the skin during collagen synthesis and Keratinocyte differentiation. 

Therefore, when Vit. C levels drop, and a skin condition called keratosis pillaris can develop. In this case, excess keratin production in hair follicles leads to the formation of small, rough, and bumpy keratin papules on the skin. These papules can create a stippled, gooseflesh-like appearance, often seen on the outer parts of the upper arms, upper legs, and buttocks.

Easy Bruising

As we have already mentioned vitamin C is an important constituent in the formation of collagen, hence Vitamin C deficiency signs towards abnormal drop in amounts of collagen. Collagen provides strength and structure to blood vessel walls. When collagen is scarce, blood vessels become fragile, leading to frequent ruptures. 

As a result, even minor trauma can cause extensive bruising. These bruises may manifest as large areas of discolouration or small, purple dots. Recognizing easy bruising can serve as an early warning sign of vitamin C deficiency, prompting the need for investigation into one’s vitamin C levels to prevent further health complications related to inadequate collagen support in blood vessels.

Slow-healing wounds

Wounds heal slowly in vitamin C deficiency because vitamin C is crucial for collagen synthesis, which is a fundamental component of connective tissue and plays a key role in wound healing. When there’s a deficiency of vitamin C, the production of collagen is impaired, leading to weakened connective tissue, particularly in and around blood vessel walls. This weakness hampers the body’s ability to repair and regenerate damaged tissues effectively, resulting in poor wound healing.

Studies have revealed that individuals with chronic leg ulcers are more likely to have vitamin C deficiency, highlighting its impact on wound healing. 

In severe deficiency cases, old wounds may reopen, increasing infection risk. Slow wound healing is typically a later sign of deficiency, often appearing after several months of inadequate vitamin C intake, underscoring the importance of maintaining sufficient levels of this vital nutrient for optimal tissue repair.

Weak Bones

Weak bones in vitamin C deficiency result from multiple factors. Vitamin C is essential for collagen production, which forms the structural framework of bones. In deficiency, collagen alterations occur, leading to defective osteoid matrix formation, a critical component for bone strength. Furthermore, vitamin C deficiency increases bone resorption, weakening bones

Studies found that in Children in growing ages, insufficient collagen formation due to vitamin C deficiency can negatively impact bone health, making bones more prone to damage, fractures, and delayed healing. 

It’s important to address vitamin C deficiency through dietary changes or supplementation to support proper bone mineralisation and overall health.

Poor immunity

Vitamin C is essential for immunity due to its antioxidant properties, which protect immune cells from damage. It supports physical barriers like the skin, hindering pathogen entry. Inside immune cells, it enhances functions like pathogen engulfment and the production of microbe-killing compounds. Additionally, vitamin C facilitates the removal of spent immune cells, preventing excessive inflammation. It bolsters immune defence, aiding in infection prevention and promoting overall health.

Hence, vitamin C deficiency is linked to poor immunity, increasing susceptibility to various infections. In fact, studies have found the association of Vit. C deficiency with the Pneumonia

Unexplained Weight gain

Vitamin C regulates fat cell function by impacting lipolysis (fat breakdown), controlling stress hormones (glucocorticoids), inhibiting glucose metabolism and leptin secretion, and reducing inflammation. These mechanisms collectively influence body weight and fat storage. Therefore, Vitamin C deficiency can cause insulin resistance and disrupt lipid metabolism, leading to weight gain.  

Which means in order to lose weight effectively, it’s not just about watching your protein intake but also paying attention to your vitamin C levels. Since researchers have noticed consistent link between low vitamin C levels and excess body fat, and belly fat in particular. 


Vtiamin C causes which disease?

Vitamin C deficiency can lead to a condition called scurvy. Scurvy is a disease characterized by a range of symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, joint and muscle pain, swollen and bleeding gums, skin rashes, and impaired wound healing.

Who is most at risk for vitamin C deficiency?

Individuals at higher risk for vitamin C deficiency include those with limited fruit and vegetable intake, smokers, and people with certain medical conditions or poor dietary habits.

Vitamin C deficiency neurological symptoms?

Vitamin C deficiency can lead to neurological symptoms such as fatigue, depression, confusion, and impaired cognitive function due to its crucial role in brain health.

Written by

Sobin S. Gupta (MSc)

Sobin S. Gupta is a multifaceted professional—nutritionist, researcher, writer, and diabetes educator. She founded "Nutrition Meet," dedicated to educating the community on preventing and curing chronic diseases. With a passion for health and wellness, Sobin empowers individuals to take control of their well-being through informed dietary choices.

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