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Signs & Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

by
author image Molly McAdams
Molly McAdams is a writer who lives in New York City. She has covered health and lifestyle for various print and online publishers since 1989. She holds a Master of Science degree in nutrition.
Signs & Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
You may develop osteoporosis. Photo Credit George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Overview

Vitamin D is synthesized by the human body, a process that begins whenever you are outdoors and ultraviolet rays hit your skin. Vitamin D is also found in some fish and dairy products, and in supplement form. A deficiency can occur for several reasons, including limited sun exposure, kidney problems that prevent activation of the vitamin, digestive tract conditions that interfere with absorption or lack of vitamin D in the diet. Unfortunately, there are no early warning signs of vitamin D deficiency. The medical conditions that develop as a result of, or along with, a vitamin D deficiency are usually the first indication.

Malnutrition

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it travels in the body attached to fat. Any disorder that disturbs fat digestion or absorption will hamper absorption of Vitamin D. Since vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and maintenance of calcium blood levels, anyone with a deficiency will lose bone minerals and eventually suffer from bone pain, muscle weakness and possibly lower back pain.

If you are lactose intolerant or do not drink milk, you may not be getting enough vitamin D tin your diet. Obese individuals are at risk of vitamin D deficiency because excess body fat holds on to vitamin D and it is not able to circulate in the bloodstream and get to where it is needed. People who don’t get at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure at least three times a week, or who cover their heads and bodies completely while in the sun, must be sure to get enough vitamin D through diet or supplements.

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Rickets

Rickets, or bone softening, is a childhood disorder directly caused by vitamin D deficiency. It is only common in children age 6 months to 2 years who are breastfed only, because breast milk does not contain vitamin D. Rickets also occurs rarely in children with liver disorders whose bodies cannot convert vitamin D from sunlight into its active form.

Osteomalacia

Osteomalacia is the name given to the adult form of rickets, or softening of the bones. Osteomalacia occurs with kidney or liver disease, lack of exposure to sunlight or when vitamin D is poorly absorbed or lacking in the diet.

Hypocalcemia

Hypocalcemia, or low levels of calcium in the blood, can signal vitamin D deficiency. Over extended periods of time, low blood calcium can lead to brittle and deformed bones.

Hyperparathyroidism

When vitamin D disorders leads to low blood levels of calcium, the parathyroid glands begin to overproduce parathyroid hormone. This overproduction causes too much calcium to be drawn from the bones, resulting in weaker bones and higher risk of breaks and fractures.

Hyperparathyroidism

When vitamin D disorders leads to low blood levels of calcium, the parathyroid glands begin to overproduce parathyroid hormone. This overproduction causes too much calcium to be drawn from the bones, resulting in weaker bones and higher risk of breaks and fractures.

Osteoporosis

Men and women age 50 and older are at high risks of developing osteoporosis, a condition where calcium and other minerals are not replenished in the bones and the bones become weak and brittle. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to this condition, because older skin does not synthesize vitamin D and older kidneys are not as good at converting the vitamin to its active form. Without vitamin D, calcium cannot be reabsorbed into the bone.

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References

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