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Vitamin D Deficiency: Symptoms, causes and treatments

Team AckoAug 23, 2022

A Vitamin D study in India revealed the prevalence of 40 to 99% of its deficiency in the country. Most of you must have heard about this vitamin since it gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic’s peak. If so, you may know its role in strengthening the body’s immune system. However, if that’s all you know, read ahead for more insights! In this article, we will elaborate on the role of Vitamin D and the symptoms, causes and treatments associated with its deficiency.

Vitamin D Deficiency

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a part of a fat-soluble secosteroid group and is responsible for the absorption of essential nutrients like phosphate, calcium and magnesium in the intestines. It is also referred to as the sunshine vitamin, as it is primarily produced when your skin is exposed to direct sunlight.

What is Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D Deficiency is the absence of adequate amounts of Vitamin D in the body. This shortage generally occurs due to insufficient skin exposure to sunlight and a lack of a regular Vitamin D-inclusive diet.

Vitamin D is usually measured in nanograms per millilitre (ng/mL), and levels of 20 to 50 ng/mL in the body are usually considered normal. Hence, the deficiency of this vitamin occurs when your level creeps below this healthy range.

Why is Vitamin D so important?

As mentioned previously, Vitamin D plays an important role in absorbing essential nutrients in the intestines. Apart from that, it is speculated that it prevents the following health problems.

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Bone loss

  • Heart disease

  • Depression

  • Type 2 diabetes

Signs and symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

It is typically difficult to suspect Vitamin D Deficiency as it may not show its symptoms in most cases. Nonetheless, the following are some of the common Vitamin D Deficiency symptoms that show up in some individuals.

  • Fatigue and exhaustion

  • Weakness of bones

  • Muscle pain

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Hair loss

  • Frequent infections and illnesses

  • Development of asthma in children

  • Heart disease-related fatality

  • Impaired healing of wounds

  • Cognitive disorders

  • Obesity

What are the causes of Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D Deficiency primarily occurs due to insufficient sun exposure and dietary reasons. Apart from this, here are some of the other common Vitamin D Deficiency causes.

  • Being above 65 years of age

  • Working or staying indoors

  • Working night shifts

  • Being obese or overweight

  • After undergoing gastric bypass surgery

  • Not consuming sufficient fish and dairy products

  • Living away from the equator in regions that have little or no sunlight year round

  • Suffering from liver disease, chronic kidney disease, or hyperparathyroidism

  • Suffering from a health condition like Crohn’s disease that impairs the absorption of nutrients

  • Consuming medication like statins and steroids that hinder Vitamin D-related metabolism

List of diseases caused by Vitamin D Deficiency

Here are some of the common Vitamin D Deficiency diseases.

  • Type 1 and type 2 diabetes: Long-term Vitamin D Deficiency can sometimes lead to type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This is caused because the body cannot produce insulin or becomes insensitive to the hormone due to insufficient Vitamin D levels.

  • High blood pressure: Individuals having a low level of Vitamin D for a long duration of time may develop high blood pressure.

  • Cardiovascular diseases: This is another disease that may develop due to consistently low levels of Vitamin D over an extended period.

  • Multiple sclerosis: This disease is known to occur in people with a deficiency of Vitamin D.

  • Cancer: Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to the risk of cancerous growths like prostate, colon and breast cancer.

  • Compromised immune system: Not having adequate levels of Vitamin D may cause your immune system to malfunction.

How to diagnose Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is present in the body in two forms, namely, 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D (25-OH D), or Calcidiol and 1,25-Dihydroxy Vitamin D, or Calcitriol. The most common test for Vitamin D Deficiency is a blood test called the 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D test. This test only measures the body’s 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D level because 25-Dihydroxy Vitamin D is easier to detect in the blood than 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D.

Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D Deficiency treatments usually include the following.

Diet

Your levels of Vitamin D can be enhanced by eating Vitamin D-rich foods like the following.

  • Egg yolks

  • Fortified cereals

  • Fatty fish

  • Beef liver

  • Yoghourt

  • Fortified milk and juices

Supplements

Doctors usually prescribe oral supplements for individuals suffering from low levels of Vitamin D. As per the dosage suggested by your doctor, you can easily buy Vitamin D supplements from most medical shops. Also, these supplementations are generally prescribed only for a few weeks or months until your Vitamin D levels stabilise. After that, your doctor may suggest that you incorporate Vitamin D-rich foods into your diet and spend more time outdoors, under the sun.

How to prevent Vitamin D Deficiency

You can prevent Vitamin D Deficiency by doing the following.

  • Spend more time outdoors during the day. That way, your body will naturally produce Vitamin D by utilising the sunlight that falls on your skin.

  • Take supplements as advised by your doctor. This can help to complement the Vitamin D levels innately produced by your body.

  • Obesity is one of the causes of low Vitamin D levels. Therefore, make sure to exercise regularly and follow a healthy diet to maintain a healthy body weight.

Frequently asked questions

Mentioned below are some of the frequently asked questions and their answers regarding Vitamin D Deficiency.

Will taking Vitamin D supplements prevent COVID-19?

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No, taking Vitamin D supplements will not prevent getting infected by the COVID-19 virus. That being said, Vitamin D does improve the human body’s immune response and can be consumed as a supplement to increase your body’s general immune response.

Does using sunscreen increase the risk of Vitamin D deficiency?

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Yes, the use of sunscreen has been shown to reduce the body’s ability to use sunlight to produce Vitamin D. Nonetheless, sunscreen prevents other harmful effects of sunlight on your skin. Please discuss this with your doctor to know what’s best for your skin type.

What are the negative effects of Vitamin D deficiency?

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Usually, Vitamin D deficiency leads to the following negative effects.

  • Back pain

  • Poor wound healing ability

  • Depression

  • Hair loss

  • Fatigue

Do excess Vitamin D levels affect the body adversely?

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Yes, excess Vitamin D levels in the blood do adversely affect the body. The following are some of the common side effects.

  • Elevated blood levels

  • Confusion

  • Depression

  • Psychosis

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhoea

  • Constipation

  • Poor appetite

  • Kidney complications

  • Increased calcium concentration in the blood

What are some foods that are rich in Vitamin D?

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Vitamin D-rich foods include the following.

  • Herring

  • Salmon

  • Sardines

  • Canned tuna

  • Mushrooms

  • Cod liver oil

  • Egg yolks

Does Vitamin D play a role in weight loss?

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Yes, some studies suggest that Vitamin D contributes to weight loss.

What is Vitamin D toxicity?

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Vitamin D toxicity is when you consume too much Vitamin D and therefore develop health complications like hypercalcemia or increased level of calcium in the blood. This can, in turn, cause the binding and damaging of tissues. However, note that the occurrence of overdosage is rare.

What is the most common disease caused by deficiency of Vitamin D in children?

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One of the most common diseases caused by Vitamin D deficiency in children is a disease called rickets. It is characterised by the softening and weakening of bones.

Do weight loss surgeries affect Vitamin D levels?

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Yes, weight loss surgeries are known to decrease Vitamin D levels in the body.

What is the ‘bow legs’ condition?

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Bow Legs is a condition in children wherein the legs become bow-shaped due to weak bones that are not able to support the child’s body weight. This condition is caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D.

Reference:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6060930/#:~:text=The%20prevalence%20of%20Vitamin%20D,and%20high%2Drisk%20groups%20alike

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. As this content piece is not vetted by a medical professional, please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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