• Bruce Salinger

Understanding Vitamin D Deficiency: Risk and Prevention

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient. You need enough of the vitamin to maintain bone and overall health. Some research suggests vitamin D can also reduce the risk of certain cancers.


Unfortunately, many people are vitamin D deficient. Over 40% of the U.S. population suffers a deficiency in this crucial vitamin, according to the National Institutes of Health database. The best way to discover vitamin D deficiency is to talk to a doctor. People with a deficiency share common symptoms and characteristics.


Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency


About one in 10 U.S. children are vitamin D deficient. Children who do not get enough vitamin D will often experience muscle weakness and pain. In rare circumstances, a child can develop rickets, which causes deformities in joints, incorrect growth patterns, bone pain, and muscle weakness.


While the signs of deficiency in children stand out, adult symptoms are not as severe. For example, adults may experience muscle aches and bone pain, but many brush the issue off. Unique symptoms of a deficiency in adults are fatigue combined with mood changes, such as depression.


Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency


There are many causes of vitamin D deficiency, but most stem from medical conditions, a mix of unique factors, or medications. The health conditions that arise from or result in a vitamin deficiency include:

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Celiac disease

  • Crohn's disease

  • Obesity

  • Weight loss surgery

  • Kidney disease

  • Liver disease

Healthcare professionals often look at specific individual factors as well:

  • Age

  • Skin color

  • Mobility

  • Breastfed

Vitamin deficiency can also result from medications. The most common medicines that can lower vitamin D levels include:

  • Steroids

  • Laxatives

  • Rifampin

  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs

  • Orlistat

  • Phenobarbital

  • Phenytoin

Deficiency Treatment


Vitamin D deficiency treatment and prevention rely on achieving and maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in the body. Most times, eating foods rich in vitamin D or spending more time outdoors can improve vitamin levels. However, when someone is deficient, they will likely need a supplement.


Depending on the severity of the deficiency, a doctor might need to prescribe a special supplement for you. You will need to talk to your physician to determine how much vitamin D you need.


Be careful not to self-medicate with supplements. Consuming too much vitamin D is dangerous and can lead to several issues, including:

  • Ataxia

  • Nausea

  • Confusion

  • Weakness

  • Poor appetite

  • Constipation


Preventing Vitamin D Deficiency


There are three ways to limit the risk of vitamin D deficiency: sun exposure, vitamin-rich foods, and supplements. Sun exposure is the best way to get vitamin D, but it also has risks. Too much exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer, which is why you should never spend more than 10 to 20 minutes outside without sunscreen.


If your doctor suggests a supplement is the best option to reverse a deficiency, listen to them. They will explain the appropriate dosage and provide insight into a reputable brand.


Vitamin D deficiency is more common than most people realize. With millions affected yearly, it is more important than ever to take appropriate action to correct the problem. If you believe you have a deficiency, contact your doctor and schedule an appointment for testing.


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