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Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency: Are You Lacking in the Sunshine Vitamin?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” as our body is capable of producing vitamin D in the presence of sunlight. With 30%-50% of people all over the world affected with vitamin D deficiency, it has become a global challenge (1).
Among the several functions vitamin D performs in the body, the most important is that it is required to absorb calcium. Calcium is required by the body for strengthening bones and teeth and several other vital functions (2).
Therefore, people who have calcium deficiency also show symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency.
Are you lacking in the “sunshine” vitamin?
Vitamin D deficiency occurs when there is a reduced intake of vitamin D or when it is not absorbed properly. It is also seen in people who do not receive sufficient exposure to sunlight. Exposure to the sun has become less which leads to symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency in individuals.
Even in tropical countries like India, symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are commonly seen. People hardly go into the direct sunlight and if they do, they are fully clothed or use sunscreen. These prevent skin from being exposed to direct sunlight resulting in low vitamin D levels in the body.
Depending on the stage of life, vitamin D deficiency can lead to
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency
Rickets in children
Rickets is the result of vitamin D deficiency in children. In this condition, bones are not properly formed because a mineral deposition is affected. Rickets makes the bones soft and weak which may lead to bone deformities (3).
Symptoms of rickets
- Bones of the child affected by rickets may be sore and painful. Bones may become fragile and there is an increased risk of fractures.
- The child may find it difficult to walk and may get tired easily. The child may also develop a waddling type of walk.
- Skeletal deformities such as bowed legs are observed.
- Weak tooth enamel, delay in teeth coming out and a higher risk of teeth cavity formation
- Growth and development may be affected as the bones are affected
It is an established fact that vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium from the diet. Along with symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency, the calcium levels in the body also gets affected. In some children with rickets hypocalcemia, which is low levels of calcium in the blood may be seen.
Symptoms of calcium deficiency
The symptoms seen when calcium levels drop apart from symptoms of rickets becoming even worse are
- muscle cramps and twitching
- tingling sensation in hands and feet
Osteomalacia in adults
Osteomalacia is the adult form of rickets (2). Adults also face symptoms similar to that of children affected with rickets (3).
Symptoms of osteomalacia
- Painful bones
- Fragile bones that are prone to fractures
- Weakness of muscles
There is research work that states low levels of vitamin D levels are linked to (4, 5)
- increased risk of falls
- muscle pain
- muscle weakness
- cardiovascular risk
- diabetes mellitus
- polycystic ovary syndrome
- and autoimmune disorders
Vitamin D and sunshine
Vitamin D produced in the body because of exposure to sunlight lasts 2 times longer in the body than vitamin D from food. Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency can be reduced by casual exposure of arms and legs to the sun three times a week. The best time for exposure would be between 11 am to 3 pm and the period of time to expose depends on the latitude of the place and pigmentation of the skin (6).
Be careful so that you do not get burnt in the sun and also remember that prolonged exposure to the sun can increase the risk of skin cancer (7). Please use sun protection.
It is extremely important to take the recommended amounts of vitamin D for everyone. It may be through sunlight exposure, through diet or through supplementation.
- Nakashima, A., Yokoyama, K., Yokoo, T. and Urashima, M. (2016) Role of vitamin D in diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney disease, World journal of diabetes. Vol. 7 (5). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4781904/
- Wildman, R. (2009) The Nutritionist-Food, Nutrition, and Optimal Health. Vitamins are vital molecules in food 191. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. Second Edition. New York and London.
- National Health Services (2018). Rickets and osteomalacia. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rickets-and-osteomalacia/symptoms/
- Singh, P. (2018) Treatment of Vitamin D Deficiency and Comorbidities: A Review, Journal of the Association of Physicians of India.Vol.66. http://japi.org/january_2018/11_ra_Treatment.pdf
- DeLuca, H.F. (2004) Overview of general physiologic features and functions of vitamin D, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 80(6). https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/80/6/1689S/4690513
- Harinarayan, C. V., Holick, M. F., Prasad, U. V., Vani, P. S. and Himabindu, G. (2013) Vitamin D status and sun exposure in India, Dermato-endocrinology. Vol. 5 (1). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3897581/
- National Health Services (2018). How to get vitamin D from sunlight. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-get-vitamin-d-from-sunlight/