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Vitamin D Deficiency

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Vitamin D Deficiency

(Hypovitaminosis D)


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.

This health problem can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. These are two diseases that weaken bones.

Weakened Bone.

Weakened bone at hiphttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=25402540si1437.jpgOsteoporosisNULLjpgOsteoporosisNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\si1437.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.31NULL2002-10-012553912540_199443254390Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


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

Risk Factors

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
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.