vitamin d deficiency: frequently asked questions
What is vitamin D deficiency?
When your doctor says that you are vitamin D deficient, it means that you have too little vitamin D in your blood. Vitamin D insufficiency is a term that has been used to describe patients with more modest reductions in vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency is typically diagnosed by measuring the blood concentration of calcidiol.
What happens when I don’t get enough vitamin D?
Vitamin D is not only essential for the skeletal system, it is also important for overall good health. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a number of health complications related to abnormalities in calcium, phosphorus, and bone metabolism. Specifically, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to:
• secondary hyperparathyroidism
• muscle weakness
• an increase in the risk of fracture
Vitamin D deficiency can also precipitate or exacerbate osteopenia and osteoporosis.
What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?
Because the possible effects of vitamin D deficiency are wide-ranging, the same symptoms may not be present for everyone who is deficient. While, in fact, most cases do not produce symptoms, those associated with vitamin D deficiency can include:
• generalized bone pain
• muscle aches and pains
• muscle weakness
• gait impairments
• low mood and cognitive deficits
What causes vitamin D deficiency?
Many conditions and diseases are associated with vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D levels are dependent on numerous factors and biological processes. These processes are hardly static and can be rapidly altered by medical treatment and in people living with chronic conditions and diseases. Contributing factors to vitamin D deficiency include:
• living with kidney disease
• increased metabolism of vitamin D
• reduced dietary intake due to low appetite
• living with certain gastrointestinal disorders
• inability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins
• taking medications that affect vitamin D levels
• living with liver disease
• restricted physical activity and exposure to sun
• impaired synthesis of vitamin D in the skin
Other risk factors for vitamin D deficiency