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Vitamin D Deficiency – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Victor Anunobi
Victor Anunobi is an environmentalist, writer and movie enthusiast living in the city of Lagos, Nigeria. He enjoys long walks, food and alternative music.

Vitamin D deficiency, also known as Hypovitaminosis D, occurs as a result of inadequate exposure to the ultraviolet rays of sunlight.

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It results in low dietary intake of vitamin D. It can result in rickets in children, which is observed as bow-leggedness and can cause osteomalacia – weakness of bones- in adults.

Vitamin D a fat-soluble vitamin that the body produces on exposure to sunlight. It is responsible for a wide range of functions in the body and helps the body to maintain its health.

It essential for the absorption of calcium that strengthens your bones. It is also vital for the healthy functioning of the teeth, lungs, heart, and brain.

Vitamin D supports your immune system and helps it fight against infections. It can also help in regulating your insulin levels. It enhances your mood and keeps your energy levels up.

Research suggests that low levels of vitamin D in the body can be associated with diabetes, pain your muscles, and fractures in your bones. It has also been linked to high multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, and even certain types of cancer.

In fact, studies have shown that children receiving vitamin D supplements during winter reduce the risk of Influenza A.

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Exhaustion

Fatigue and tiredness may be due to many causes, one of them is vitamin D. Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D in the blood can cause exhaustion that can adversely impact the quality of life.

Increasing the intake of vitamin D via dietary supplements can rectify this and improve the quality of life.

Pain in Bones and Back

Vitamin D helps to maintain healthy bones by improving your body’s absorption of calcium. Insufficient amounts of vitamin D may cause pain in the bones and lower back.

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Frequent Occurrence of Diseases

One of the significant roles of vitamin D is to prevent illnesses by keeping your immune system strong and healthy and boosting the cells responsible for fighting infection. 

Inadequate amount of vitamin D may cause you to fall sick often, especially with colds or flu.

Delayed Healing of Wounds

Low levels of vitamin D may be responsible for the slow healing of wounds. Studies have suggested that vitamin D increases the production of compounds that are vital for the formation of new skin during the process of wound-healing.

Research has also shown that people who have had dental surgery may have some aspects of their healing compromised by lack of vitamin D.

Bone Loss

Vitamin D is vital in the absorption of calcium and the formation of bone tissue. Older adults who have been diagnosed with low bone density may believe they should increase their intake off calcium. However, they may also have low levels of vitamin D.

Pain in the Muscles

There are many causes of muscle pain, one of which is lack of vitamin D. Research has shown that inadequate vitamin D in the blood may be a cause of muscle pain in adults and children.

Depression

Inadequate vitamin D in the body may inadvertently result in depression. Evidence has associated low levels of vitamin D to depression, especially in older adults.

Hair Loss

There are many causes of hair loss or alopecia. They include stress, cancer treatment, and iodine deficiency. Hair loss has also been attributed to the lack of adequate amounts of vitamin D in the blood.

Alopecia is an autoimmune disease with symptoms appearing as severe hair loss from the head and other parts of the body. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with alopecia.

Rickets

This is a childhood disease characterized by deformity in the long bones and abnormal softening of the skull.

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Osteomalacia

This is a bone disorder characterized by muscle weakness and fragile bones. It occurs specifically in adults.

Periodontitis

An insufficient amount of vitamin D can lead to periodontitis, a gum infection that damages gums and results in tooth loss.

Risk factors of Vitamin D deficiency

  • Old age: The skin loses its ability to absorb vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. The kidneys are also less able to convert vitamin D that can be used by the body in older adults.
  • Existing disorders: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. People with disorders like celiac disease and Crohn’s Disease are rendered incapable of handling fat properly, thus reducing the body’s absorption of vitamin D. Also, chronic kidney and liver disease affects the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D.
  • Melanin: Darker-skinned people are less likely to produce vitamin D from the sun compared to others
  • Breastfeeding: Human milk has low levels of vitamin D. Daily supplements of vitamin D is a good source of the vitamin in infants
  • Obesity: Excess body fat binds with vitamin D, inhibiting it from getting absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Cancer: Cancers like lymphomas reduces the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D
  • Medication: Certain drugs affect vitamin D metabolism. Medication like anti-seizure drugs, cholestyramine, antifungal drugs, and antiretroviral drugs affects the body’s ability to metabolize vitamin D.
  • Surgery: Vitamin D metabolism may be compromised in people who have had gastric bypass surgery.
  • Hyperparathyroidism

Diagnosis

A medical professional diagnoses vitamin B deficiency by testing a blood sample of the affected person.

Treatment

The Endocrine Society recommends the following guidelines for the treatment of vitamin D deficiency.

  • For children below 1-year-old who are deficient in vitamin D, at least 400 IU/d of vitamin D is required. Children older than 1-year-old need at least 600 IU/d.
  • For adults aged 19-50 years old who are vitamin D deficient, at least 600 IU/D of vitamin D is required for optimum bone health.
  • For adults aged 50-70 old years and above, they require at least 600-800 IU/D of vitamin D to maintain bone health.
  • For pregnant and lactating women, at least 600 IU/d of vitamin D supplement is required, and at least 1500-2000 IU/d of vitamin D is needed to maintain normal blood levels
  • For obese children and adults, children and adults on anticonvulsant medication, antifungals, and antiretroviral drugs, they should be giving at least two or three times more vitamin D for their age group to meet the body requirement.

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