Signs & Symptoms of Low Vitamin D in Teens

Boys having breakfast
Teenagers should get 15 mcg of vitamin D daily. (Image: Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Despite the fact that vitamin D is readily available, 58 million American children don’t get enough of this vital vitamin. The vitamin helps your body process calcium, which helps your bones develop and stay strong so it’s essential for teenagers whose bodies are still growing. Vitamin D is found in milk and milk products as well as in some types of fish and cereals. Exposure to sun also causes your body to produce the vitamin.

Rickets

A nurse measures the height of a teen girl at the doctor's office
A teenager with rickets will be smaller than average and may show some bone abnormalities. (Image: Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Rickets is a condition that occurs in adolescents who have been vitamin D-deficient for years. A teenager with rickets will be smaller than average and may show some bone abnormalities. In particular, she may have bowed legs, thick wrists or a curved spine. A doctor needs to perform x-rays and take blood tests to diagnose rickets. This condition can often be treated by adding more vitamin D to the teen’s diet, although in some cases surgery may be necessary.

Bone Breaks and Pain

Glass of orange juice, fresh fruit and pills on kitchen counter
Vitamin D will strengthen bones. (Image: Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Even if her bones are of normal size, a vitamin D-deficient teenager’s bones may be weakened because she’s not getting enough calcium to keep her bones strong. Vitamin D deficiency may be to blame if she’s broken any bones easily, such as in a mild accident. She may also be able to feel pain in her bones due to her deficiency. Any bones can be affected. Eating more of the vitamin will generally strengthen her bones without additional medical help.

Obesity

Man's Feet on a Bathroom Scale
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to obesity. (Image: Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images)

With nearly one third of American teenagers overweight, it can be difficult to determine if your teen is overweight because of vitamin D deficiency, but the two have been linked. A study done by Johns Hopkins University found that teens who had low vitamin D levels were five times more like to be obese than their peers. It’s unknown exactly why the two are linked, but helping your child get active while feeding her more low-fat, vitamin-D rich foods can raise her levels while lowering her weight.

Fatigue and Depression

Depression is common among teenagers, and while vitamin D deficiency won’t cause your teenager to be depressed, it can make her symptoms worse. The deficiency can cause her to be fatigued, making her less active and more withdrawn. Since sun exposure creates vitamin D, teens who live in overcast, cold locales where they don’t see the sun much may experience more fatigue and depression during cloudy months. If you notice she’s especially withdrawn in winter, taking her outside for walks whenever the sun appears may help.

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