What are the symptoms of pellagra and how is it caused?


Pellagra is an acute deficiency of Vitamin B3, which is one of the 8 B vitamins. Vitamin B3 is also known as Niacin or Nicotinic acid. The body needs Vitamin B3 also called as Niacin to for most cellular processes. Over dependence on a particular drink or food and malnutrition can cause this disease. If Pellagra is not treated it could lead to death.

The vitamin deficiency disorder causes dark red patches on the neck, face, hands, feet and calves. A person suffering from Pellagra is also likely to experience vomiting, constipation, nausea and diarrhea. The tongue and mouth get swollen, red and sores develop.

Vitamin B3 plays an important role in converting carbohydrates into metabolizing proteins, fats and glucose. It helps in proper working of the nervous system, improving cholesterol levels, improving circulation and making stress and sex related hormones.

Deficiency in Vitamin B3 can lead to symptoms like depression, indigestion, vomiting, canker sores and fatigue. Severe deficiency in Vitamin B3 can result in fatigue, apathy, pigmented, scaly and thick rash on skin when exposed to sunlight, bright red tongue, swollen mouth, memory loss, disorientation and depression.


Pellagra treatment includes consuming good sources of niacin like cereals, red meat, fortified breads, poultry, peanuts, fish and enriched pasta. Women need a RDA – Recommended Daily Allowance of 14 milligrams of Niacin per day, while men need 16 milligrams of niacin per day. The doctor may advice prescription or over the counter Niacin in high doses to treat high triglycerides and cholesterol. If side effects are experienced, the doctor must be contacted. If a person has had a history of gout then it is necessary to be careful about consuming Vitamin B3 as it could elevate concentration of serum uric acid.