Monday, 26 February 2018

Scurvy and autism yet again...

"Here, we report a case of pediatric scurvy in an 11-year-old autistic child with a restricted diet who presented with refusal to walk, fatigue, a purpuric rash, and gingival bleeding."

Yep, the topic is scurvy and autism surfaces again on this blog (see here and see here and see here for other blogging entries), and yet another case report [1] illustrating how a disease that should really have been banished at least a century ago very much remains a part of modern medicine in some circumstances.

In case you didn't already know, scurvy is a disease of nutrition. A chronic lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), pretty vital for the synthesis and upkeep of collagen for example, leads to a variety of symptoms including weakness, fatigue, joint pain and perhaps most famously, bleeding gums (gingival bleeding). Vitamin C is present in many fruits and vegetables or can even be delivered as a supplement. Indeed, some pretty famous people have extolled the virtues of regular vitamin C consumption (see here) albeit with varying degrees of successful results outside of scurvy prevention or treatment.

As I mentioned, scurvy appearing alongside autism is not a novel finding. Restricted feeding patterns exemplified by the inclusion of a small repertoire of foods seems to be THE primary risk factor when it comes to scurvy following a diagnosis of autism. As far as I am aware, once the hurdle of actually diagnosing scurvy has been overcome, treatment with vitamin C supplementation seems to be able to resolve many symptoms pretty quickly both inside and outside the context of autism.

What's more to do in this area? Well, as I've mentioned before, screening for scurvy should perhaps be a lot more commonplace following a diagnosis of autism. Given that restricted feeding patterns - not necessarily including any special diets that are put in place for clinical reasons - are pretty frequent in relation to autism, there's a big case for further examinations for scurvy to be more widespread. Minus any clinical or medical advice being given or intended, use of nutritional supplements in the context of restricted feeding habits and autism might also be a sensible option given potential issues outside of just those linked to vitamin C (see here). Obviously this requires some clinical input to ensure that the right dose and preparation is given, but given the quite painful effects of something like scurvy, the question is: why should a diagnosis of autism be a barrier to sound health and wellbeing?

And as I write, there is yet more [2] appearing on this topic, and yet again treatment with vitamin C led to "rapid improvement"...


[1] Burhop J. et al. Do You C What I C: Emergency Department Evaluation and Diagnosis of Pediatric Scurvy in an Autistic Child With a Restricted Diet. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2018 Jan 23.

[2] Kinlin LM. et al. Scurvy as a mimicker of osteomyelitis in a child with autism spectrum disorder. International Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2018. Feb 6.