Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Health and Nutrition
23.10.2019

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” as our body is capable of producing vitamin D in the presence of sunlight. 

 

One of the most important functions of vitamin D in the body is that, it is required to absorb calcium. Calcium is required by the body for strengthening of bones and teeth and several other crucial functions (1).

 

Vitamin D deficiency

 

Vitamin D deficiency occurs when there is 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 sun has become less which leads to dwindling of vitamin D synthesis by the skin. 

 

Even in countries like India where there is ample sunlight, people hardly go into direct sun light and if they do, they are fully clothed or use sun screen. 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

 

  • Rickets
  • Osteomalacia

 

Signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

 

Rickets

 

Rickets is the result of vitamin D deficiency in children. In this condition bones are not properly formed because mineral deposition is affected. Rickets make the bones soft and weak which may lead to bone deformities (2).

 

Signs and symptoms of rickets

 

  • Bones of the child affected with rickets may be sore and painful. Bones may become fragile and there is increased risk of fractures.

 

  • The child may find it difficult to walk and may get tired easily. The child may also develop waddling type of walk.

 

  • Skeletal deformities such as bowed legs are observed.

 

  • Weak tooth enamel, delay in teeth coming out and higher risk of teeth cavity formation

 

  • Growth and development may be affected as the bones are affected

 

It is a well know fact that vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium from diet. When there is vitamin D deficiency the calcium levels in the body also get affected. In some children with rickets hypocalcaemia which is low levels of calcium in blood may be seen. 

 

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
  • fits

 

Osteomalacia

 

Osteomalacia is the adult form of rickets (1). Adults also face symptoms similar to that of children affected with rickets (2).

 

Signs and 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 (3, 4)

 

  • increased risk of falls 
  • fractures 
  • muscle weakness and pain
  • cardiovascular risk 
  • diabetes mellitus
  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • infections 
  • and autoimmune disorders

 

Final word

Looking at all the serious outcomes of vitamin D deficiency, It is extremely important to take recommended amounts of vitamin D for everyone. It may be through sunlight exposure, through diet or through supplementation. 

 

References

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. National Health Services (2018). Rickets and osteomalacia.

              https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rickets-and-osteomalacia/symptoms/

 

  1. 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

 

  1. 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

 

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