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6 Signs And Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency

vitamin D deficiency symptoms

Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a lifestyle problem all over the world. Although older individuals and adults who do not get enough exposure to sunlight are at a higher risk of suffering from this condition, it is reported that anyone can suffer from it, irrespective of the age, gender, and race.

According to a 2018 study titled “Vitamin D deficiency in India”[1], the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in India ranges from 40% to 99%, which means almost every Indian lacks sufficient Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is classified as blood levels of Vitamin D lower than 20 ng/ml and sufficiency as levels more than 30 ng/ml. Levels between 20-30 ng/ml are termed as Vitamin D insufficiency.

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According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the RDA of Vitamin D for Indians under minimal exposure to sunlight is 200 IU for people below 50 years and 400 IU for those older than 50 years. Lack of Vitamin D can make you prone to numerous health complications such as osteoporosis, infections, allergy, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, depression, and even cancer.

Signs You Are Deficient In Vitamin D

In most cases, the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are subtle which is why most people do not realize they are deficient in Vitamin D. If you have low levels of vitamin D, you might:

1. Be more prone to infections

Vitamin D plays a key role in the proper functioning of the immune system. It helps to build your immunity and make you strong by helping you to fight various bacterial and viral infections. A 2017 study[2] showed a link between lower respiratory tract infections such as cold and pneumonia with low Vitamin D levels. Hence, if you become sick more often, especially with a cough and cold it could be due to low levels of Vitamin D.

2. Feel tired

There are numerous health problems that can cause tiredness and fatigue, and the lack of Vitamin D is one of them. However, this symptom is not taken seriously. Low levels of Vitamin D in the blood can also impact the energy which in turn can make you feel tired and fatigue. A study 2013 study in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation[3] reported that women who were Vitamin D deficient were more likely to complain about fatigue as compared to those who were Vitamin D sufficient.

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3. Suffer from bone pain

It is a well-known fact that Vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium, which plays a key role in the maintenance of bone health. Hence, lack of vitamin D can impact the bone density and lead to symptoms such as bone pain and back pain.

Several studies[4] have reported that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with chronic back pain, which in the long run can also impact the quality of life hindering with their day-to-day activities. Moreover, people with a deficiency of this vitamin were twice likely to experience pain in the legs, ribs, and joints as compared to those with normal Vitamin D levels in the blood. In severe cases, it can also lead to bone loss due to low bone mineral density, which further puts you at risk of fractures

4. Experience pain in the muscles

A 2014 study in Pain Medicine[5] revealed that Vitamin D deficiency may cause muscle pain in children as well as adults. According to the study, around 71% of people who experienced chronic pain in the muscles were found to be deficient in Vitamin D levels. This could be due to the presence of Vitamin D receptors on nerve cells, which can sense pain. Vitamin D deficiency causes hypersensitivity of these receptors leading to pain and sensitivity.

5. Suffer from hair loss

One of the key reasons for hair loss is a nutritional deficiency. Low levels of Vitamin D in women can lead to hair loss[6]. The deficiency of this vitamin is linked to alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by severe hair loss. Hence, do not ignore hair loss but consult a doctor to know the exact cause of the condition and get it treated.

6. Feel depressed

Numerous studies have linked low levels of Vitamin D to depression, especially in adults. This could be due to the presence of Vitamin D receptors in the brain tissue which plays a key role in the regulation of several neurological and metabolic pathways. Studies[7] have also reported that supplementation of Vitamin D improved mood in people with anxiety and symptoms of depression in people with seasonal affective disorders (SAD).

The symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are nonspecific, which makes it difficult to diagnose the condition. Hence, if you experience any of the signs that indicate low Vitamin D levels, consult your doctor and get tested for Vitamin D. The deficiency of Vitamin D can be fixed by loading up your intake of Vitamin D either through diet, sunlight and supplements.

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(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

References:

1. Aparna P, Muthathal S, Nongkynrih B, Gupta SK. Vitamin D deficiency in India. J Family Med Prim Care. 2018 Mar-Apr;7(2):324-330.

2. Jat KR. Vitamin D deficiency and lower respiratory tract infections in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Trop Doct. 2017 Jan;47(1):77-84.

3. Ecemis GC, Atmaca A. Quality of life is impaired not only in vitamin D deficient but also in vitamin D-insufficient pre-menopausal women. J Endocrinol Invest. 2013  Sep;36(8):622-7.

4. Silva AV, Lacativa PG, Russo LA, de Gregório LH, Pinheiro RA, Marinheiro LP. Association of back pain with hypovitaminosis D in postmenopausal women with low bone mass. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013 Jun 12;14:184.

5. Von Känel R, Müller-Hartmannsgruber V, Kokinogenis G, Egloff N. Vitamin D and central hypersensitivity in patients with chronic pain. Pain Med. 2014 Sep;15(9):1609-18.

6. Rasheed H, Mahgoub D, Hegazy R, et al. Serum ferritin and vitamin d in female hair loss: do they play a role? Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2013;26(2):101-7.

7. Okereke OI, Singh A. The role of vitamin D in the prevention of late-life depression. J Affect Disord. 2016 Jul 1;198:1-14.

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