There is a lot of talk about Vitamin D and how its deficiency can cause severe problems for an individual. Vitamin D is essential in the absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and phosphate. Speaking of it from a perspective of a person who suffers from it, it is rather a state of extreme fatigue and tedium that can render one incapable or reluctant to even move at times. As vitamin D has a direct relationship with strong bones, its deficiency then causes bone abnormalities. Symptoms that are characteristics of Vitamin D deficiency can be divided among those found among children and those found among adults.
Symptoms in babies and children
- Babies with severe vitamin D deficiency can get muscle spasms (cramps), seizures and difficulties in breathing.
- Severe deficiency may lead to soft skull or leg bones. The shape of the legs may look curved (bow-legged). They may mostly feel pains in the bones, often in the legs, and muscle pains. This condition is known as rickets.
- Growth is affected, more than weight. Children with deficiency may be weaker and some may be unable to stand or walk.
- Growth also affects the teeth. Children with vitamin D deficiency may be late teething as the development of the milk teeth has been affected.
- Mood swings, irritation, tantrum throwing are common among children suffering from this.
- Infections are common among children who are Vitamin D deficient. Respiratory (breathing) symptoms can occur In severe cases. Breathing can be affected because of weak chest muscles and a soft ribcage.
- Rickets if very severe, it can cause low levels of calcium. A possible outcome of this can be muscle spasms (cramps), seizures and breathing difficulties.
Symptoms in adults
- Fatigue, tiredness, aches and pains and a feeling of being unwell
- In more severe deficiency (known as osteomalacia), there may be severe pains and also weakness. This weakness may lead to troubles in climbing stairs, getting up, exerting pressure on muscles or can lead to the person limping or walking in an unusual manner.
How does Vitamin D deficiency affect a person’s health?
Vitamin D deficiency has deteriorating affects on a person’s health. It has been studied upon and a possible link has been found between Vitamin D and multiple Sclerosis, Heart diseases, Cancer, immunity and autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular and respiratory health, pregnancy, obesity, erthyropoiesis , diabetes, muscle function and aging.
One reason why obese children and teenagers are more likely to have hard-to-control asthma and allergies may be vitamin D deficiency, a new study finds!
“The increased risk for asthma and allergies, and for more severe cases of allergic disease, in overweight and obese adolescents has not previously been understood,” said Candace Percival, MD, lead investigator and a pediatric endocrinology fellow at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD. However, past research has shown that vitamin D is important for a normal immune system and that vitamin D deficiency is common in obese individuals.
The study conducted using 86 subjects from the age of 10 to 18 years was aimed to determine whether Vitamin D deficiency played a role in the increased allergy risk in youth.
The investigators found significant correlations between the severity of the subjects’ obesity, the adipokine levels and some biochemical measures of allergic disease. As expected, the higher the BMI Z-score was (indicating greater obesity), the higher the level of leptin and the lower the levels of adiponectin and vitamin D, the authors reported. Obese subjects also had increased levels of IgE, IL-6 and IL-13. However, Percival said, “the relationship between the BMI-Z score and the adipokines and markers of allergic disease seemed to depend on the vitamin D deficiency seen in the more obese patients, leading us to conclude that the increased risk for allergy in obesity may be mediated by vitamin D to some degree.”
This is one of the few studies that form a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and increased allergy risk and severity in obese and overweight adolescents.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?
1) Exposure to the sun: The major source of vitamin D is natural sun, so limited exposure to it has a significant impact on vitamin D deficiency. The dangers of skin cancer and the need for sunscreen to protect us from this disease are not unknown. Unfortunately, no one discusses the dangers of not getting vitamin D from the sun and ways to compensate for it.
2) Skin Colour: Melanin gives colour to the skin. Lighter skin has less melanin than darker skin. Melanin is able to absorb UVB radiation from the sun and compensates for the production of Vitamin D3 by the skin. Dark skin has a natural sun protection and requires longer exposures to make the same amount of vitamin D as a person with a white skin tone.
3) Obesity: Research has begun to show a relationship between BMI and vitamin D deficiency. A study done on 2,187 overweight and obese subjects found that those with a BMI above 40 had 18% lower serum vitamin D levels than those with a BMI under 40.
4) Malabsorption: People with one of the fat malabsorption syndromes (for example, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease) and people who have had bariatric surgery are often unable to absorb enough of the fat-soluble vitamin D.
5) Aging: Aging decreases the capability of the body to synthesize Vitamin D from exposure to the sun.
Now that the symptoms, affects and causes have been discussed and a possible identification of its deficiency can now be easily made, we move on to speaking about what measures can be taken to counter this deficiency or is it good enough for a person to simply bath in the sun on a daily bases and meet the Vitamin D requirement?
Prescribed treatment suggested is that all adults who are vitamin D deficient be treated with 50,000 IU of vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 once a week for eight weeks or its equivalent of 6,000 IU of vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 daily to achieve a blood level of 25(OH)D above 30 ng/ml, followed by maintenance therapy of 1,500-2,000 IU/day. Obese patients are prescribed a higher dose to meet the required need in order to cut down on the weight the body has gained due to being vitamin D deficient.
More than 90% of the human vitamin D requirement comes from casual exposure to sunlight. A judicious exposure to sunlight typically no more than 5 to 15 minutes per day (depending on latitude, time of day and degree of skin pigmentation) of arms and legs or hands, face, and arms two to three times per week during the spring, summer, and fall in latitudes above 37º and throughout the year below 37º is all that is required to satisfy the body’s requirement.