Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

Vitamin D is important to overall health. Getting enough of this vitamin — which your body manufactures when it is exposed to sunlight — is not only essential from bone health, but has also been linked to lower rates of cardiovascular problems, asthma and cancer.

But how can you know if you’re not getting enough vitamin D? While there are some symptoms of vitamin D deficiency that you may experience, in other many cases you may not be able to tell that you are lacking in this important nutrient.

Signs You May Not Be Getting Enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms include muscle pain, weakness and bone pain. Infants who are vitamin D deficient may experience muscle spasms. However, many people who are vitamin D deficient will have no obvious symptoms.

Even if you are not experiencing any obvious symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, you may still have a problem. Individuals who are more likely to have low vitamin D levels include:

  • Breastfed infants
  • People who are obese
  • People who do not get a lot of sun (such as those who live in northern latitudes or keep most of their body covered when outside)
  • People with dark skin
  • People with a condition that makes in difficult for their body to absorb vitamin D (such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and cystic fibrosis)
  • The elderly.

Effects of Vitamin Deficiency

If your levels of vitamin D remain low for a long time, you may begin to show symptoms of more serious illness. In children, low vitamin D may result in rickets, which is characterized by a soft skull, abnormal bone growth, and a slowness to sit or crawl. In adults, rickets is called osteomalacia, and is characterized by a softening of the bones that makes them more susceptible to fracture.

Low vitamin D has also been linked to a number of other health conditions, from osteoporosis and heart disease to asthma and depression. Because symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can be hard to identify, it’s important to be aware of your overall vitamin D intake. Spending a few minutes outside every day in direct sun is the easiest way to get enough vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D through certain foods (like tuna and fortified milk), as well as supplements.

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, or are concerned that you aren’t getting enough of this vitamin, talk to your healthcare provider. She may conduct a blood test to measure your vitamin D levels and can advise you on specific measures to take to increase your vitamin D intake.

Resources

Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Osteomalacia. Retrieved December 13, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic website: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteomalacia/DS00935

Merck Home Manual Staff. (n.d.). Vitamin D. Retrieved December 10, 2009, from the Merck website: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec12/ch154/ch154j.html

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements Staff. (2009). Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Retrieved December 10, 2009, from the National Institutes of Health website: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp