Vitamin D is one of the most fascinating ingredients in healthy body chemistry. While it can be found in food, the body also produces it naturally when exposed to sunlight. It keeps bones healthy, helps the body absorb and regulate calcium, and bolsters the immune system to fight disease and infection. A deficiency in vitamin D, however, can lead to many health problems and prevent you from leading the active, healthy life you enjoy. But what causes vitamin D deficiency, and is there anything you can do about it?
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can often go overlooked or undetected, since its symptoms can also stem from a variety of other causes. In adults, these include:
- Bone and joint pain
- Muscle weakness, soreness, and/or cramps
- Changes in mood
In children, the symptoms are essentially the same, but in certain, rare cases a lack of vitamin D can cause rickets, which is characterized by abnormal growth patterns, extreme muscle weakness, bone pain, and deformities.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by a number of factors, many of which can overlap and intensify the issue. Some of the most common causes include:
Certain Chronic Diseases that Affect the Digestive System: Diseases like Crohn’s Disease, celiac disease, and cystic fibrosis keep the intestines from absorbing enough vitamin D, even through supplementation, and often lead to a deficiency.
Stomach & Intestinal Reduction Surgeries: Cosmetic procedures and others that reduce the size of the stomach and/or intestines can make it difficult for your body to obtain enough vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, including vitamin D.
Obesity: While vitamin D is fat-soluble, a surplus of fat cells can isolate and hinder the effectiveness of vitamin D. This is especially a concern for individuals with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30.
Kidney and Liver Disease: Diseases of the kidney and liver prevent the body from converting vitamin D into a usable form. Even with supplements, it is difficult to bolster vitamin D levels for people with kidney and liver disease, since the conversion process does not take place effectively.
Age and Lifestyle: Vitamin D deficiency is more prevalent in older people and those with a more sedentary lifestyle. While these factors will vary between individuals, mobility, exercise, and dietary routines can play a large role in the body’s ability to obtain and utilize vitamin D.
Certain Medications: Some medications can block and interfere with vitamin D absorption, including steroids and cholesterol meds. If you are taking any regular medications and suspect you may have a vitamin D deficiency, consult with your healthcare provider.
Health Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency
Health risks related to vitamin D deficiency can range from mild to severe. Common ones include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Increased sickness and infections
- Immune system disorders
- Falls and increased risk of injury in older people
- Multiple sclerosis
- Colon, breast, and prostate cancers, among others
Diagnosis and Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency
How is vitamin D deficiency diagnosed?
Vitamin D deficiency is diagnosed through blood tests. These can be done through routine testing or upon request. If you’re particularly at risk or are experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, talk to your healthcare provider to schedule the necessary testing.
What are the treatment options for vitamin D deficiency?
Eating foods with high levels of vitamin D and getting more sunlight are the easiest options for both preventing and treating vitamin D deficiency. If those adjustments are insufficient, there are also supplements available, either over the counter (D2) or through prescription (D1). Talk to your healthcare provider to see what supplement regimen is best for you.
If You Think You Might Have a Vitamin D Deficiency, Nurse Practitioners of Florida Can Help
At Nurse Practitioners of Florida, we have a dedicated team of certified nurse practitioners who have an unwavering commitment to providing you with care and compassion. When you call any of our locations, you will be greeted by a live person who’s ready to offer acute medical care as well as preventive measures — including flu vaccines. And, above everything else, you will be treated like family.
If you need assistance, call us or fill out our online contact form.