Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency: Burning Feet

woman checks her aching foot
Foot burn. (Image: paisan191/iStock/Getty Images)

Vitamin D-2, or ergocalciferol, and vitamin D-3, or cholecalciferol, are variations of vitamin D that the body procures in different ways. Specifically, ergocalciferol is dietary, whereas the skin produces cholecalciferol. Sustained adequate intake of vitamin D can prevent hypertension, osteoporosis, many autoimmune diseases and cancer, but the primary purpose of the nutrient is to facilitate the absorption of dietary calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D deficiencies do not often render symptoms, and burning feet are particularly unlikely.

Vitamin D Deficiency

A deficiency in vitamin D may produce no symptoms, but bone pain and muscle weakness may be an indication. On the other hand, bone pain and muscle weakness are an indication of several health complications, so it may be prudent to determine whether you're at risk and see a doctor for tests if you suspect a vitamin D deficiency. Those particularly at risk include those with fat malabsorption, limited sun exposure, dark skin and a history of gastric bypass surgery. Seniors and breastfed babies are also at risk for developing a vitamin D deficiency, but mothers and seniors who supplement their diets with extra vitamin D can prevent this deficiency. The elderly should consume up to 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day, while everyone else should have 5 micrograms.

Secondary Calcium Deficiency

A vitamin D deficiency can lead to a secondary calcium deficiency. According to an article in the July 2007 "New England Journal of Medicine," the body is capable of absorbing only 10 to 15 percent of dietary calcium in the absence of vitamin D. Accordingly, a secondary calcium deficiency can occur despite an otherwise adequate calcium intake. The body stores 99 percent of calcium in bones, making it essential for bone health. This is why a deficiency in calcium can lead to osteomalacia, or chronic bone pain and osteoporosis, which is a combination of chronic bone weakness and bone pain that can be both crippling and deforming. However, calcium is also essential for the contraction and expansion of muscles, enzyme and hormone excretion, and nerve function. Thus, a calcium deficiency can cause nerve complications, which can manifest as burning feet but more often occurs as tingling, numbness and nonspecific pain.

Secondary Phosphorus Deficiency

The 2007 "New England Journal of Medicine" indicates that the body can absorb up to 60 percent of dietary phosphorus without vitamin D and 80 percent with an adequate intake of vitamin D. Phosphorus deficiencies have several symptoms akin to vitamin D and calcium deficiencies, including loss of appetite, muscle weakness, bone pain, osteomalacia, numbness or tingling, and difficulty walking. A phosphorus deficiency can also cause anemia, though, which affects nerve endings and can lead to the sensation of burning feet, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Therefore, burning feet can conceivably result from a vitamin D deficiency that leads to a secondary phosphorus deficiency.

Bottom Line

A vitamin D deficiency that has not yet produced complications with other nutrients is not likely to exhibit symptoms. Symptoms do occur as the condition worsens and leads to secondary deficiencies in calcium and phosphorus. Although a deficiency in calcium can possibly cause burning feet, it is most likely that burning feet following a lack of vitamin D consumption or production result from a phosphorus deficiency. Other causes of burning feet include alcoholism, athlete's foot, chronic kidney failure, chemotherapy, HIV or AIDS, tarsal tunnel syndrome, diabetic neuropathy and hypothyroidism.

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