Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency: Are You Lacking in the Sunshine Vitamin?

Health and Nutrition

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 to 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 of bones and teeth and several other vital functions (2).


Therefore, vitamin D deficient people may also show the symptoms of those who have calcium deficiency also.


Are you lacking in the “sunshine” vitamin?


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 lowering of vitamin D synthesis by the skin. 


In tropical countries such as India also where there is abundant sunlight vitamin D deficiency is commonly seen. 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


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 mineral deposition is affected. Rickets make the bones soft and weak which may lead to bone deformities (3).


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 an established 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. 


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
  • fits


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 
  • fractures
  • muscle pain
  • muscle weakness
  • cardiovascular risk 
  • diabetes mellitus
  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • infections 
  • 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. Casual exposure of arms and legs to sun three time a week can produce sufficient vitamin D. The best time for exposure would be between 11 am to 3 pm and the period of time to expose depends on latitude of the place and pigmentation of the skin (6).

Be careful so that you do not get burnt in sun and also remember that prolonged exposure to sun can increase the risk of skin cancer (7). Please use sun protection.


Final word


It is extremely important to take recommended amounts of vitamin D for everyone. It may be through sunlight exposure, through diet or through supplementation. 




  1. 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).


  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.

  1. Singh, P. (2018) Treatment of Vitamin D Deficiency and Comorbidities: A Review, Journal of the Association of Physicians of India.Vol.66.


  1. DeLuca, H.F. (2004) Overview of general physiologic features and functions of vitamin D, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 80(6).


  1. 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).


  1. National Health Services (2018). How to get vitamin D from sunlight.

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