JOURNAL ARTICLE
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[Survey in 2000: 3 cases].

BACKGROUND: We report three new cases of patients presenting scurvy. In the year 2000 this rare disease still occurs in France.

CASE REPORTS: The three patients, 2 men and a woman respectively 51, 50, and 73 years-old were alcoholics, and lived alone in difficult social conditions. Dietary survey indicated in the 3 cases inadequate vitamin C intake, and a regimen including solely bread, rice, pasta, and packet soup devoid of fresh vegetables and fruit. The cutaneous findings attributed to scurvy were: in the first patient, a woody inflammatory and painful oedema of the left leg associated with perifollicular petechial haemorrhages over the lower limbs, and hyperpigmentation of the facial skin with slate-gray spotty pigmentation of the tongue (pseudo-addisonian hyperpigmentation); in the second patient, an accentuation of a pre-existing acne becoming more inflammatory and extensive; and in the third patient, a diffuse petechial eruption on the abdomen and lower extremities. The diagnosis of scurvy was confirmed by low plasma ascorbic acid levels (< 6 mumol/l). All patients were treated with 1 to 2 g of oral ascorbic acid daily for 2 weeks resulting in rapid and dramatic response.

DISCUSSION: Scurvy is a rare disease in industrialized nations. Its incidence is unknown because of absence of total census. Dietary vitamin C deficiency represents the main risk factor exposing for scurvy among adults, often alcoholics and living in social isolation. Cutaneous features supporting the diagnosis of scurvy are described in our observations. The recognition of these cutaneous abnormalities is important because their association can be misleading, and erroneously interpreted as a sign of systemic vasculitis, or connective tissue disease. The diagnosis of scurvy is confirmed by the measurement of plasma ascorbic acid levels. Treatment is simple and based on the administration of vitamin C, which results in dramatic improvement.

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