Vitamin D Deficiency: Diagnosis, Test, Complications and Treatment

Vitamin D Deficiency: Complications and Treatment | HealthSoul

Vitamin D deficiency refers to a lack of vitamin D present in a person’s body. Vitamin D is unique in that it is the only vitamin that the body produces on its own. It does this through exposure to sunlight. Still, many people suffer from a lack of this vitamin.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

A recent U.S. study claims that as many as 3 million people are deficient in vitamin D. It is especially common among African Americans, for people with dark skin produce less vitamin D when they are exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet light.

  • Underexposure to ultraviolet light
  • Strict vegan diet
  • Lactose intolerance that prevents a person from drinking vitamin D enriched milk.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are sometimes so subtle that many people who have a deficiency might ignore them. When symptoms appear, they can include:

  • Frequent infections, because vitamin D supports the health of the immune system
  • Fatigue
  • Bone pain, especially pain in the lumbar back
  • Depression
  • Wounds that are slow to heal
  • Bone loss, especially in post-menopausal women
  • Alopecia, or hair loss
  • Myalgia, or muscle pain

Complications of Vitamin D Deficiency

Complications of vitamin D deficiency include inadequate absorption of calcium. Vitamin D and calcium work intimately together and can’t function well without each other. Vitamin D deficiency also causes the body to retain phosphorus in the kidneys, which is why so many symptoms of the deficiency affect the bones. Children are at risk for a disease called Rickets, where the bones of the skull, legs, spine and other areas become soft. An adult form of rickets called Osteomalacia is also a result of vitamin D deficiency. Untreated vitamin D deficiency may lead to a condition called Tetany. This causes muscles to be numb, tingling, and go into spasm. Since the thyroid gland needs vitamin D to produce the hormone, the person may suffer from symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Diagnosis of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency can be confirmed through a medical examination, tests of the blood and urine, and imaging tests of the patient’s bones. A patient’s general practitioner can usually make this determination and they may recommend a nutritionist.

Prevention and Treatment of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D can easily be prevented if the person gets the recommended amount. Nutritionists say that most people should get at least 400 to 600 International Units of vitamin D a day. People who stay indoors a lot should get as much as 1000 IU.

Treatment does not require surgery unless the patient has such extreme bone loss that they need a prosthetic. Usually, the person needs to get out into the sun more, take a supplement, or eat foods rich in vitamin D. These foods include:

  • Salmon and other cold water, fatty fish such as mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines
  • Fish liver oil
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Egg yolks
  • Mushrooms, especially wild mushrooms
  • Foods fortified with vitamin DA lack of vitamin D is typically common during certain seasons, and this can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder.