The lack of vitamin D is very common but initially has no characteristic symptoms. So when there is suspicion of this vitamin being in deficiency, it has been this way for a prolonged period, and these symptoms and signs appear, such as:
- Growth retardation in children;
- Bowing of the legs in the child;
- Enlargement of the extremities of the bones of the legs and arms;
- Delayed birth of baby's teeth and cavities early on;
- Osteomalacia or osteoporosis in adults;
- Weakness in the bones, which makes them easier to break, especially the bones of the spine, hips and legs;
- Pain in the muscles;
- Fatigue, feeling of weakness and malaise;
- Pain in the bones;
- Muscle spasms.
The conditions favoring vitamin D deficiency are the lack of adequate and healthy exposure to the sun, increased pigmentation of the skin, over 50 years old, low intake of vitamin D rich foods and living in cold places where the skin is rarely exposed to the sun.
Light-skinned people need about 20 minutes of sun exposure a day, while darker-skinned people need at least 1 hour of direct sun exposure without sunscreen in the early morning or late afternoon.
How to confirm lack of vitamin D
The doctor may suspect that the person may have vitamin D deficiency when he or she does not adequately expose himself to the sun, always uses sunscreen, and does not consume foods rich in vitamin D. In the elderly vitamin deficiency may be suspected in cases of osteopenia or osteoporosis.
The diagnosis is made through a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test, and the reference values are:
- Severe deficiency: less than 20 ng / ml;
- Mild deficiency: between 21 and 29 ng / ml;
- Appropriate value: from 30 ng / ml.
This test can be ordered by the general practitioner or pediatrician, who can assess if there is a need to take some vitamin D supplement.
When to take vitamin D supplement
The doctor may recommend taking vitamin D2 and D3 when the person lives in a place where there is little sun exposure and where foods rich in vitamin D are not very accessible to the general population. In addition, it may be recommended to supplement pregnant and newborn infants up to 1 year of age, but it is always necessary to check first if there is vitamin D deficiency.
When supplementation is needed, it should be done during 1 or 2 months, and after that period the doctor may request a new blood test to assess whether it is necessary to continue taking the supplement for a longer time because it is dangerous to take excessive vitamin D, because i can increase greatly the levels of calcium in the blood, which also favors bone breakage.
Main causes of vitamin D deficiency
In addition to the low consumption of foods containing vitamin D, the lack of adequate sun exposure, may be due to excessive use of sunscreen, having brown skin, being mixed race or having black skin. The lack of vitamin D may be related to some specific situations, such as:
- Chronic renal insufficiency;
- Celiac disease;
- Chron's disease;
- Short bowel syndrome;
- Cystic fibrosis;
- Cardiac insufficiency;
- Gall stones.
When one of these diseases are present, medical monitoring should be done to check vitamin D levels in the body through the specific blood test mentioned above, and, if necessary, take vitamin D supplements.
Important sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D can be obtained from consuming certain foods, such as salmon, oysters, eggs and sardines, or through the body's natural production when exposed to sunlight.
People with vitamin D deficiency are more likely to develop diseases such as diabetes and obesity, so they should increase their exposure to the sun or take vitamin D supplements following medical advice.
Check out more examples of foods rich in vitamin D.
Consequences of vitamin D deficiency
Lack of vitamin D increases the chances of having serious diseases that affect bones such as rickets and osteoporosis but may also increase the risk of developing other diseases such as:
- Arterial hypertension;
- Rheumatoid arthritis and
- Multiple sclerosis.
Sun exposure is important to prevent vitamin D deficiencies because only about 20% of the vitamin's daily needs are attained by the diet. Adults and children with fair skin need about 20 minutes of sun exposure daily to produce this vitamin, while black people need about 1 hour of sun exposure.