What causes vitamin D deficiency?

A major cause of vitamin D deficiency is limited sun exposure. Your skin produces vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun. Many people who live far from the equator in the northern and southern hemispheres get inadequate exposure to the sun because the sun’s rays are not strong enough during winter months. Having an indoor occupation and using sunscreen also limit the amount of sun exposure a person receives.

Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by not eating enough food rich in vitamin D, such as liver, eggs, oily fish, and fortified milk and dairy products. People at risk for vitamin D deficiency include vegetarians, vegans and infants, especially breast-fed infants.

Vitamin D deficiency can also be caused by a condition in which the kidneys cannot convert vitamin D into its active form that the body can use. In addition, as people grow older, their kidneys are less able to effectively convert vitamin D into its active form.

Certain diseases of the digestive system can cause malabsorption of vitamin D from food in the intestines. These include Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and cystic fibrosis. Obesity and gastric bypass surgery can also lower vitamin D stores in the body.

What are the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency?

A number of factors are thought to increase your chances of developing vitamin D deficiency:

  • Age older than 50 years
  • Avoiding sun exposure or working at an indoor occupation
  • Being breast-fed
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Dark skin (Dark skin has high levels of the pigment melanin, which reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D.)
  • Excessive use of sunscreen
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Living in Northern latitudes
  • Malabsorption syndrome
  • Using antacids
  • Vegetarian or vegan diet

How can you reduce your risk for vitamin D deficiency?

In some cases, you can prevent vitamin D deficiency by getting adequate sun exposure. It is also important to eat a diet that includes a sufficient amount of vitamin D. Foods high in vitamin D include fortified milk and dairy products, liver, eggs, and oily fish.

You may also need to take a vitamin D supplement, as recommended by your health care provider, if you:

  • Have certain diseases or conditions that put you at risk for vitamin D deficiency, such as obesity, gastric bypass surgery, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, liver disease, and kidney disease

  • Limit your sun exposure

  • Live in a Northern latitude

In addition, breast-fed infants may need vitamin D supplementation.


What is vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency is a common condition in which the body has inadequate stores of vitamin D. This fat-soluble vitamin is produced in the skin as a result of exposure to the sun’s rays, which are the main source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is also available in dietary supplements and in liver, eggs, oily fish, and fortified milk and dairy products.

Vitamin D is essential for many a... Read more about vitamin d deficiencyintroduction


What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can vary depending on the individual and the severity of the deficiency. Many people have no symptoms of vitamin D deficiency until complications, such as rickets (a softening of the bones in children), are present. Symptoms may also be mild or subtle. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Bone pain

How is vitamin D deficiency treated?

Vitamin D deficiency is treatable. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, you can expect to have a good prognosis and a minimal risk of developing serious permanent complications, such as rickets, osteomalacia and osteoporosis.

Treatment of vitamin D deficiency includes:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Food, Nutrition and Diet, Celiac Disease

Vitamin D Deficiency Related Links