Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is a low level of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is found in a few foods. It is also produced when the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of sun. Vitamin D is stored in the body's liver and fatty tissues.
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Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by:
- Problems producing vitamin D from the skin's exposure to sunlight
- Not getting enough vitamin D in the diet or from supplements
- Not absorbing enough vitamin D from the digestive tract
- Problems with the body converting vitamin D to a form it can use
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
- Lack of direct sun exposure from things like:
- Spending a lot of time indoors, such as in long term care facilities
- Wearing clothes that cover most of the skin
- Living in northern latitudes during the winter
- Having darker skin
- Not eating enough foods that contain vitamin D
- Having conditions and procedures that affect the body's ability to absorb vitamin D, such as:
- The body cannot covert vitamin D to a form it can use, due to problems such as:
People with mild to moderate deficiency may not have symptoms. Those with a severe deficiency may have:
- Bone and muscle pain
- Hip pain
- Muscle weakness
- Problems walking, climbing stairs, and getting out of a chair
- Frequent falls
The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and diet. A physical exam will be done.
Vitamin D levels will be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
The goal of treatment is to increase vitamin D levels. This can be done with:
- Vitamin D supplements
- Ultraviolet light therapy
The risk of this problem may be lowered by:
- Eating foods that contain vitamin D, such as:
- Milk, juice, and cereal enriched with vitamin D
- Salmon, swordfish, tuna, and sardines
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Getting some sun exposure
- American Academy of Dermatology. Position statement on vitamin D. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/Forms/Policies/Uploads/PS/PS-Vitamin%20D.pdf.
- Dietary supplement fact sheet: vitamin D. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional.
- Holick MF. The vitamin D deficiency pandemic: Approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2017;18(2):153-165
- Vitamin D deficiency in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/vitamin-d-deficiency-in-adults.
- Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
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