What’s the Diagnosis?

by Zersha Munir

Medical History: 

Three months into his first semester at Pitt, Jerry fell seriously ill. His parents had noticed his weakening condition over fall break. He resisted a visit to the doctor’s office, so instead they provided him with a few ready-made meals and told him to stay hydrated.

The rations lasted about a week before Jerry continued his Market Central-diet. As a freshman, he was required to pay for a meal plan, so he made full use of it instead of spending extra to eat out. His nightly meal was a cheeseburger and fries with a helping of soft serve ice cream for dessert. At some point he stopped taking a piece of produce for a snack, because his appetite had decreased.

Jerry grew annoyed. He had regularly worked out at Trees Hall all semester, but lately his body felt tender. He hadn’t gained weight, but still felt unhealthy somehow. He shortened his runs on the treadmill to ease his aching legs and rapid breathing. He assumed the small red-blue bruises on his body came from lifting and lessened his load. Some nights he even felt too exhausted to bother going to the gym.

The week before Thanksgiving, Jerry developed a fever that he chalked up to midterm stress. He was irritable, easily annoyed by his roommate and complained to his parents about his fatigue. They urged him to visit Pitt’s Health Services to procure the proper medicine, but Jerry refused to spend time waiting on a walk-in appointment during flu season. At the end of the week, he caught the bus home. Upon his arrival, his parents observed his severe condition and forced him to obtain a diagnosis from the doctor.

What’s wrong with Jerry?


After months of unhealthy eating, Jerry developed scurvy. Scurvy is a rare disease caused by a lack of Vitamin C, and no, it’s not just for sailors. It is most commonly seen in elderly patients and alcoholics. However, scurvy can also affect patients who have poor diets, often due to economic and social conditions. Symptoms include decreased appetite, fatigue, tender limbs, bruising, fever, rapid breathing and irritability.

Scurvy is extremely rare, and Jerry’s mild case may have been caused by an inattentiveness to his diet. Scurvy is treated by providing the patient with Vitamin C, either orally or via injection. Foods that contain Vitamin C include oranges, tomatoes, spinach, potatoes and oysters.