Health

What are the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is best known for supporting calcium metabolism. It is made from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to sunlight. It is also present in certain foods, including fortified dairy products, like milk.

Vitamin D is an important vitamin which has powerful effects on different systems throughout your body. Unlike other vitamins, it functions like a hormone. Therefore, every single cell of our body has a receptor for it.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin D is usually 400–800 IU, but many experts say you should get more than that.

Vitamin D deficiency is very common and it’s estimated that around 1 billion people worldwide have low levels of the vitamin in their blood. Here are 7 risk factors which are common for vitamin D deficiency;

  • Having dark skin.
  • Being elderly.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Not eating much fish or dairy.
  • Living far from the equator where the sun is little year-round.
  • Always try to use sunscreen when going out.
  • Staying indoors.

People living near the equator get frequent sun exposure. Therefore, they are less likely to be deficient, as their skin produces enough vitamin D to satisfy their needs. Usually, people don’t realize that they’re deficient. This is because its symptoms are usually subtle. Following are some common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.

Getting sick or infected often

The most important role of vitamin D is to keep your immune system strong so that you can fight off viruses and bacteria which cause illness. It interacts directly with the cells responsible for fighting infection.

If you often feel sick, especially with colds or the flu, low vitamin D levels may be a causative factor.
A number of observational studies have shown a strong link between vitamin D deficiency and respiratory tract infections like colds, pneumonia, and bronchitis.

A study was conducted on individuals with chronic lung disorder COPD. This study found that only those who were severely deficient in vitamin D experienced a noteworthy help after taking a high-dose supplement for one year.

Fatigue and tiredness

There are many causes of feeling tired and vitamin D deficiency may be one of them. Unluckily, it is often unnoticed as a possible cause. Different case studies have found that very low blood levels can cause fatigue which has a negative effect on the quality of life.

In one case, a woman complained of headaches and chronic daytime fatigue. Therefore, it was found that she has a vitamin D blood level of 5.9 ng/ml only. This is very low, as anything under 20 ng/ml is considered poor.

But when she took a vitamin D supplement, her symptoms resolved and level increased to 39 ng/ml. However, even blood levels which are not extremely low may have a negative influence on your energy levels.

Bone and back pain

Vitamin D helps to maintain your bone health in many ways. Also, it improves your body’s absorption of calcium. Lower back pain and bone pain may be a symptom of inadequate vitamin D levels in the blood.

Different observational studies have found a strong relationship between vitamin D deficiency and chronic lower back pain.

One study observed the association between back pain and vitamin D levels in more than 9,000 older women. The researchers of the study found that those with a deficiency were more likely to have severe back pain.

Depression

Depression may also be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. In several review studies, experts have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression.

In one analysis, 65% of the observational studies found a relationship between depression and low blood levels.
But, most of the controlled trials carrying scientific weight didn’t show any association between the two.

However, in controlled studies, the researchers noted that the dosages of vitamin D were often very low. Furthermore, they observed that some of the studies may not have lasted long to see the effect of supplements on mood.

It has been found that giving vitamin D to people who are deficient helps improve depression, including seasonal depression which occurs during the colder months.

Impaired wound healing

Slow healing of wounds after an injury or surgery may be a sign of low vitamin D levels. Outcomes from a test-tube study propose that the vitamin increases the production of crucial compounds required for forming new skin as part of the wound-healing process.

It’s also been proposed that vitamin D play an important role in controlling inflammation and fighting infection for proper healing.

One analysis looked at diabetic patients having foot infections. It noted that patients with severe vitamin D deficiency were more likely to have higher levels of inflammatory markers which can risk normal healing.

Unluckily, there is not an appropriate study about the effects of vitamin D supplements on wound healing. However, one research found that vitamin D deficient patients with leg ulcers were treated with the vitamin. Thus, this helps to reduce their ulcer size by 28%, on average

Bone loss

Vitamin D plays a vital role in bone metabolism and calcium absorption. Therefore, a diagnosis of low bone mineral density may be an indication of vitamin D deficiency.

Older people diagnosed with bone loss need to take more calcium. However, they may be lacking in vitamin D as well. Your low bone mineral density is a sign that bones have lost calcium and other minerals. This condition places older adults, particularly women, at a higher risk of fractures.

A large observational study was conducted which included more than 1,100 middle-aged women in menopause or post menopause. In this study, researchers found a strong association between low vitamin D levels and low bone mineral density.

Therefore, sufficient vitamin D intake and maintaining optimal blood levels may be a good strategy for reducing fracture risk and protecting bone mass.

Hair loss

Severe hair loss may be the result of any disease or nutrient deficiency. However, hair loss in women has been associated with low vitamin D levels. But there is inadequate research on this to date.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. It is characterized by severe hair loss from the head and other body parts. It is associated with rickets which causes soft bones in children due to vitamin D deficiency. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to alopecia areata which may be a risk factor for developing the disease.

In one case study, topical application of a synthetic vitamin was found to effectively treat hair loss in a young boy with a deficiency in the vitamin D receptor.

The bottom line

Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common and most people are ignorant of it. This is because the signs are often non-specific. Therefore, it’s hard to know if they are caused by low vitamin D levels or something else.

If you have a deficiency, it is important to speak to your doctor. Luckily, a vitamin D deficiency is typically easy to fix.

You can increase your sun exposure, eat more vitamin-D-rich foods, like fatty fish or fortified dairy products. You can also take vitamin D supplements.

Sophie Abram

Sophie Abram is an author at Top Health Journal. She has a master’s degree in Biochemistry. Evidence-based nutrition is her passion and she loves to devote her career to informing the general public about it. She has extensive experience as a researcher and her research focus is within food reformulation, improving food supply and food environments. Her research examines how nutrition, dietary supplements, and exercise affects human body composition.

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