Vitamin D Deficiency
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- Inadequate intake of vitamin D in the diet
Lack of sunlight due to:
- Having a darker skin color
- Wearing clothes that cover most of the skin
- Living in northern latitudes during the winter
- Not being exposed to direct sunlight—Sunlight through windows, clothes, or sunscreen-covered skin is not enough for the body to synthesize vitamin D.
- Conditions and procedures that affect the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the digestive tract (such as celiac disease , inflammatory bowel disease , bariatric surgery)
- Conditions or medications that affect the process of converting vitamin D to a form that the body can use, such as:
- Limited sun exposure
- Darker skin color
- Kidney disease
- Restricted activity, such as due to hospitalization
- Injury due to a severe burn
- Malabsorption disorder, such as celiac disease
- Certain types of diets, such as macrobiotic diet
- Liver conditions
- Babies who are breastfed or do not consume enough formula that is fortified with vitamin D
- Bone and muscle pain
- Muscle weakness
- Hip pain
- Difficulty walking, walking up stairs, and getting out of a chair
- Vitamin D supplementation—High doses of vitamin D are given for 6-12 weeks. This is followed by a lower dose of the vitamin. The doses are continued until blood levels return to normal.
- Calcium supplementation—Calcium plus vitamin D supplements may be given to increase D levels. This can also improve bone strength in older women with low vitamin D.
- Light therapy—Exposure to sunlight or UV radiation can increase D levels. Vitamin D3 is produced in the skin when it is exposed to these light sources.
- Eat a healthy diet. Foods are not naturally high in vitamin D. Many foods are enriched with vitamin D, such as milk, juices, and cereal.
- Take a vitamin D supplement if recommended by your doctor. Your baby may need a supplement if he is breastfed or does not consume enough formula that is fortified with vitamin D. Children may also need to take a supplement if they are not getting enough vitamin D in their diets.
- Follow your doctor’s guidelines on getting enough sun exposure.
- If you or a family member has any of the above risk factors, talk to the doctor about other ways to avoid becoming deficient in vitamin D.
Celiac Sprue Association http://www.csaceliacs.org
Office of Dietary Supplements—National Institutes of Health http://ods.od.nih.gov
Canadian Pediatric Society http://www.cps.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Allain TJ, Dhesi J. Hypovitaminosis D in older adults. Gerontol. 2003;49: 273-278.
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. Updated November 14, 2009. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Dietary supplement fact sheet: vitamin D. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/. Updated November 10, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Pfeifer M, Begerow B, et al. Vitamin D and muscle function. Osteoporosis Int. 2002;13:187-194.
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, et al. Vitamin D insufficiency among free-living healthy young adults. Am J Med. 2002;112:659-662.
Vitamin D deficiency in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated October 26, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Wagner CL, Greer FR, American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding, American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2008;122:1142-1152.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 12/2014 -
- Update Date: 12/20/2014 -
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.
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