Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is an important vitamin that your body needs. Having too little of it in your body is called a deficiency. A very bad deficiency can make your bones soft and can cause a condition called rickets.

Vitamin D is important to your body for different reasons, such as:

  • It helps your body absorb 2 minerals called calcium and phosphorus.

  • It helps make your bones healthy.

  • It may prevent some diseases, such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

  • It helps your muscles and heart.

You can get vitamin D in several ways. It is a natural part of some foods. The vitamin is also added to some dairy products and cereals. Some people take vitamin D supplements. Also, your body makes vitamin D when you are in the sun. It changes the sun's rays into a form of the vitamin that your body can use.

CAUSES

  • Not eating enough foods that contain vitamin D.

  • Not getting enough sunlight.

  • Having certain digestive system diseases that make it hard to absorb vitamin D. These diseases include Crohn's disease, chronic pancreatitis, and cystic fibrosis.

  • Having a surgery in which part of the stomach or small intestine is removed.

  • Being obese. Fat cells pull vitamin D out of your blood. That means that obese people may not have enough vitamin D left in their blood and in other body tissues.

  • Having chronic kidney or liver disease.

RISK FACTORS

Risk factors are things that make you more likely to develop a vitamin D deficiency. They include:

  • Being older.

  • Not being able to get outside very much.

  • Living in a nursing home.

  • Having had broken bones.

  • Having weak or thin bones (osteoporosis).

  • Having a disease or condition that changes how your body absorbs vitamin D.

  • Having dark skin.

  • Some medicines such as seizure medicines or steroids.

  • Being overweight or obese.

SYMPTOMS

Mild cases of vitamin D deficiency may not have any symptoms. If you have a very bad case, symptoms may include:

  • Bone pain.

  • Muscle pain.

  • Falling often.

  • Broken bones caused by a minor injury, due to osteoporosis.

DIAGNOSIS

A blood test is the best way to tell if you have a vitamin D deficiency.

TREATMENT

Vitamin D deficiency can be treated in different ways. Treatment for vitamin D deficiency depends on what is causing it. Options include:

  • Taking vitamin D supplements.

  • Taking a calcium supplement. Your caregiver will suggest what dose is best for you.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Take any supplements that your caregiver prescribes. Follow the directions carefully. Take only the suggested amount.

  • Have your blood tested 2 months after you start taking supplements.

  • Eat foods that contain vitamin D. Healthy choices include:

  • Fortified dairy products, cereals, or juices. Fortified means vitamin D has been added to the food. Check the label on the package to be sure.

  • Fatty fish like salmon or trout.

  • Eggs.

  • Oysters.

  • Spend some time in the sun. Most people should get out in the sun without sunblock for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Do this 3 times a week. People who have had skin cancer should not do this. Ask your caregiver how long you should be in the sun. Do not use a tanning bed.

  • Keep your weight at a healthy level. Lose weight if you need to.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments. Your caregiver will need to perform blood tests to make sure your vitamin D deficiency is going away.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have any questions about your treatment.

  • You continue to have symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.

  • You have nausea or vomiting.

  • You are constipated.

  • You feel confused.

  • You have severe abdominal or back pain.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.