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Pellagra

Definition

Pellagra is a disease that occurs when a person does not get enough niacin (one of the B complex vitamins) or tryptophan (an amino acid).

Alternative Names

Vitamin B3 deficiency; Deficiency - niacin

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Pellagra is caused by having too little niacin or tryptophan in the diet. It can also occur if the body fails to absorb these nutrients. It may develop after gastrointestinal diseases or with alcoholism.

The disease is common in parts of the world where people have a lot of corn in their diet.

Symptoms

Symptoms of pellagra include:

  • Delusions
  • Diarrhea
  • Inflamed mucus membranes
  • Mental confusion
  • Scaly skin sores

References

So YT, Simon RP. Deficiency diseases of the nervous system. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann;2008:chap 61.

Kumar N. Neurologic presentation of nutritional deficiencies. Neurol Clin. 2010;28:107-170.


Review Date: 10/28/2010
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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