A syndrome due to deficiency of niacin, one of the B-complex vitamins. Pellagra was known as the "disease of the four D's" — dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death. The disease is specifically characterized by: Dermatitis: A rash on areas of the skin exposed to light or trauma, typically developing in spring or summer Diarrhea Dementia: Mental disorientation, confusion, delusions and depression Death, if untreated. Pellagra also commonly features ulcerations within the mouth (glossitis), nausea and vomiting. It can also cause seizures and balance disorder (ataxia). Pellagra, once a puzzle, was solved by Joseph Goldberger (1874-1929). Serving in the Public Health Service, Dr. Goldberger proposed that pellagra was due to a nutritional deficiency and in 1915 began experiments with Mississippi prison inmates (who "volunteered" in return for full pardons). Dr. Goldberger fed them a poor diet he believed caused pellagra and within months, many developed the disease. Their symptoms of pellagra were reversed when meat, fresh vegetables and milk were added to their diet. Niacin, he subsequently showed, was the principle that had this remarkable effect. A readily-available B vitamin, niacin cures pellagra and prevents it. The name "pellagra" comes from the Italian "pelle", skin + "agra", rough = rough skin, referring to the skin problems in pellagra.
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An affection characterized by gastrointestinal disturbances, erythema (particularly of exposed areas) followed by desquamation, and nervous and mental disorders; may occur because of a poor diet, alcoholism, or some other disease causing impairment of nutrition; commonly seen when corn (maize) is a main nutrient in the diet, resulting in a deficiency of niacin. SYN: Alpine scurvy, maidism, mal de la rosa, mal rosso, mayidism, psychoneurosis maidica, Saint Ignatius itch. [It. pelle, skin, + agra, rough]
- secondary p. p. resulting from any morbid condition that impairs nutrition by increasing the requirement or reducing the available supply of vitamins.
- p. sine p. p. without the characteristic skin lesions.

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pel·la·gra pə-'lag-rə, -'lāg-, -'läg- n a disease marked by dermatitis, gastrointestinal disorders, mental disturbance, and memory loss and associated with a diet deficient in niacin and protein compare KWASHIORKOR

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a nutritional disease due to a deficiency of nicotinic acid (a B vitamin). Pellagra results from the consumption of a diet that is poor in either nicotinic acid or the amino acid tryptophan, from which nicotinic acid can be synthesized in the body. It is common in maize-eating communities. The symptoms of pellagra are scaly dermatitis on exposed surfaces, diarrhoea, and depression.

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pel·lag·ra (pə-lagґrə) [It. pelle skin + agra rough] a clinical deficiency syndrome due to deficiency of niacin (or failure to convert tryptophan to niacin) and characterized by dermatitis, inflammation of mucous membranes, diarrhea, and psychic disturbances. The dermatitis occurs on the portions of the body exposed to light or trauma. Mental symptoms include depression, irritability, anxiety, confusion, disorientation, delusions, and hallucinations. pellagral, pellagrous adj

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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  • pellagra — chronic disease caused by dietary deficiency and characterized by skin eruptions, 1811, a hybrid formed from L. pellis skin (see FILM (Cf. film)) + Gk. agra a catching, seizure …   Etymology dictionary

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