Signs You Could Be Low on Vitamin D   

Signs You Could Be Low on Vitamin D

Do you need more Vitamin D?
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Anita Jasani, M.D.

You may experience a vitamin D deficiency if you don’t spend enough time in the sun – experts recommend 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure three times per week – or if you don’t consume enough foods rich in vitamin D. Certain health conditions, including celiac disease or gastric bypass surgery, also make it harder for the body to absorb dietary vitamin D.

“Regular sun exposure is the primary way that people maintain their vitamin D levels,” says family medicine physician, Anita Jasani, M.D. “It’s best to expose the skin on your face, as well as your arms and or/legs, to sunshine for 20 minutes a day a few days per week to allow your body to produce sufficient vitamin D. However, some people don’t spend meaningful amounts of time outdoors.” 

Having sufficient levels of vitamin D helps your body to absorb dietary calcium, which helps to keep your bones strong. A vitamin D deficiency may cause:

  • Osteoporosis
  • An increased risk of bone fractures
  • Rickets (soft, bendable bones) in children
  • Osteomalacia (weak bones, muscle weakness) in adults

Researchers are investigating to see whether low vitamin D levels may also be associated with an increased risk of:

  • Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Certain autoimmune diseases
  • Certain types of cancer, including breast, prostate and colon cancer

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

Many people don’t realize that they have vitamin D deficiency, because they don’t experience symptoms or they have vague symptoms. The deficiency may be present for years before someone may experience signs of the condition, including:

  • Feeling tired
  • Experiencing bone pain
  • Having muscle weakness or muscle cramps
  • Experiencing depression or other mood disorders

When to see a doctor

If you’re experiencing vague symptoms like fatigue, bone pain and muscle weakness, see your doctor to discuss possible causes based on your symptoms, your personal medical history and a physical exam. If your doctor suspects low vitamin D levels, they can send you for bloodwork to confirm.

Seeing your doctor annually for a well visit that includes blood work may also be helpful at catching low vitamin D levels, because it may diagnose a deficiency before symptoms arise.

How to treat vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D supplements may help to reverse a vitamin D deficiency. Taking 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D daily is the recommended amount for children aged 1 and up, as well as adults aged 18 through 70, including pregnant and breastfeeding women. Babies under a year old only need 400 IU vitamin D daily. Adults aged 71 and older should get 800 IU daily. If you’re diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, your doctor may recommend higher levels of vitamin D via supplement. 

Taking vitamin D dietary supplements as directed should help your levels return to a healthy range, which should help you keep your bones strong.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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