Vitamin D Deficiency
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Vitamin D Deficiency

(Hypovitaminosis D)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

Vitamin D deficiency describes low levels of vitamin D in the blood. This condition can lead to a condition known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. They are two forms of skeletal diseases that weaken bones. It is important to contact your doctor if you think you have vitamin D deficiency.

Weakened Bone

Weakened bone at hip

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Causes

Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by:

  • Inadequate intake of vitamin D in the diet
  • Limited exposure to sunlight
  • Kidney disease
  • The inability to absorb vitamin D from the digestive tract

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following factors may increase your chance of developing vitamin D deficiency:

Milk allergy

  • Lactose intolerance
  • Strict vegetarianism
  • Infants fed only breast milk without vitamin D supplementation
  • Syndromes that cause fat malabsorption, like celiac sprue or Crohn's disease
  • Kidney disease

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Diffuse bone and muscle pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Hip pain
  • Fractures
  • Difficulty walking, walking up stairs, and getting out of a chair
  • Falls

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Tests may include the following:

  • Blood tests to check vitamin D levels and kidney function
  • Bone tests

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Vitamin D Supplementation

High doses of vitamin D are given for 6-12 weeks, followed by a lower dose of the vitamin until blood levels return to normal.

Calcium Supplementation

Calcium plus vitamin D supplements have shown to increase vitamin D levels and improve bone strength in older women with vitamin D insufficiency.

Light Therapy

Exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet radiation can be effective in increasing vitamin D levels. Vitamin D3 is produced in the skin when it is exposed to these light sources.

Prevention

To help reduce the chances of getting vitamin D deficiency, the following groups of people should talk with their doctor about whether they need a daily vitamin D supplement:

  • Infants who are exclusively breastfed
  • People aged 50 and older
  • People living in northern latitudes (eg, New England, Alaska)
  • Women who wear robes and head coverings
  • People working in occupations that prevent sun exposure
  • People with darker skin (eg, African Americans)
  • People with fat malabsorption (eg, pancreatic enzyme deficiency, Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis , celiac disease, liver disease, surgical removal of part or all of the stomach or intestines)

RESOURCES:

Celiac Sprue Association
http://www.csaceliacs.org

Nemours Foundation
http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/food/vitamin.html

Office of Dietary Supplements
http://ods.od.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Pediatric Society
http://www.cps.ca

Health Canada: Food and Nutrition
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/index_e.html

References:

Allain TJ, Dhesi J. Hypovitaminosis D in older adults. Gerontol . 2003;49: 273-8.

Dietary supplement fact sheet: vitamin D. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp#h4. Accessed March 16, 2008.

Pfeifer M, Begerow B, Minne HW. Vitamin D and muscle function. Osteoporosis Int . 2002;13:187-94.

Plotnikoff, GA, Quigley, JM. Prevalence of severe hypovitaminosis D in patients with persistent, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain. Mayo Clin Proc 2003; 78:1463.

Tangpricha V, Pearce EN, Chen TC, et al. Vitamin D insufficiency among free-living healthy young adults. Am J Med . 2002;112:659-62.

Vitamin D deficiency in adults. DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed102.epnet.com/Detail.aspx?id=113821. Accessed March 16, 2008.



Last reviewed March 2008 by Marcin Chwistek, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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