Pellagra is a chronic disease affecting the skin, nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract usually due to a deficiency of niacin (Vitamin B3) or its precursor tryptophan. Pellagra mostly found in parts of India, China, and Africa where corn or maize is used as staple food.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Dermatitis (inflammation of skin) is usually found in the areas of the skin exposed to sunlight (neck, dorsal part of feet, ankle and part of face). Increase pigment around neck is known as Casal’s necklace
  • Diarrhea (may be in the form of loose stool, often with blood and mucus. Prolonged diarrhea leads to weight loss.)
  • Dementia (is associated with degeneration of nervous tissues. The symptoms of dementia include anxiety, irritability, poor memory, insomnia (sleeplessness) etc.
  • Delusions or mental confusion.
  • Loss of
  • Pain in abdomen.
  • Inflamed mucous membrane.
  • Scaly skin sores, especially in sun-exposed areas ofthe skin.

Risk factors:

Lack of niacin (vitamin B3) diet is major risk factors of pellagra. Other risk factors are  alcoholism, liver diseases, poverty, eating disorders, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), alcohol abuse, medication (isoniazid, pyrazinamide, carbamazepine) and chemotherapy also.


Primary pellagra is treated with dietary changes and a niacin or nicotinamide supplement. It may also need to be given intravenously. Nicotinamide is another form of vitamin B-3.

By – ASSISTANT PROFESSOR – : Afsha Mohi-Ud-Din
Department – Dept. of Medical Lab Technology
UCBMSH Magazine – (YouthRainBow)
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