Vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide epidemic and yet, it is a problem that is largely unknown by the majority of the population. Often vitamin D deficiency is present with symptoms of joint and muscular pain and is confused as arthritis. During childhood, this deficiency can cause growth retardation and skeletal deformities, while in adults, muscle weakness and fractures may ensue. In addition to its importance for bone health, recent evidence suggests that vitamin D is also useful in promoting cardiovascular health and preventing chronic diseases (diabetes mellitus, autoimmune disorders, and various cancers)
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
When you don't consume the recommended levels of the vitamin over time, it leads to a deficiency. This is likely if you follow a strict vegetarian diet, because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheese, fortified milk.
When exposure to sunlight is limited, it could lead to vitamin D deficiency. Because the body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, you may be at risk of deficiency if you are homebound, live in northern latitudes, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure.
If you have dark skin, the pigment melanin reduces the skin's ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency. As people age their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing their risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Sometimes the digestive tract might not be able to adequately absorb vitamin D. Certain medical problems, including Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease can affect the intestine's ability to absorb vitamin D from the food you eat.
Obesity could also be a reason for low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
The common complaint of Vitamin D deficiency is multiple joint pain with fatigue and muscular cramps. It is very important to differentiate these symptoms from arthritis and get it treated accordingly. Differentiation can be established by appropriate blood tests. Other symptoms include depression, mood swings and hair fall.
Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency
A healthy lifestyle like exercise and good balanced diet can improve vitamin D in our system. Milk and milk-related products, soy milk, oranges, mushrooms and food rich in omega 3 (salmon, tuna) and egg are few food sources for vitamin D.
But invariably if symptoms persist then supplementing Vitamin D is the only option. It is recommended that vitamin D should be administered for 8 weeks in addition to bimonthly supplements to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.
Dr. Anand M, Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon (Spine, Trauma & Joint Replacement), Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai