Vitamin D is an essential vitamin required to carry out normal functioning of our body. It facilitates the absorption of calcium, which is necessary for bony growth in children. It also prevents osteoporosis in elderly people and women after menopause.
The main source of vitamin D is sunlight. The other dietary sources of vitamin D are milk, dairy products such as butter, cheese. Fish, and fortified cereals and other food products, contain vitamin D in lesser quantity as compared to exposure to sunlight.
Causes of Low Vitamin D
- Lack of exposure to sunlight is main reason for low vitamin D level. The layer under the skin is responsible for producing vitamin D, when our body is exposed to sunlight. Aged people and babies are less exposed to sunlight. People staying in northern hemisphere and people suffering from sunlight sensitivity such as lupus have low vitamin D level in their body.
- Decreased dietary intake: Vegetables contain low level of vitamin D, compared to non vegetarian foods such as fish, liver, egg, fish oils. Therefore vegetarians rely more on milk and milk products for vitamin D.
- Inadequate absorption from the intestine or increased fecal loss: malabsorption syndrome.
- Loss from urine: nephritic syndrome.
- Certain medications such as anticonvulsants.
- Chronic renal failure
- Crohn’s disease and colitis.
Effects and Symptoms of Low Vitamin D
- Rickets in children. It is a condition where there is slow bony growth with deformity in leg bones. The child is irritable and fretful, and looks flabby with a pot belly. There is profuse sweating on forehead at night. Recurrent episodes of diarrhea and upper respiratory trat infection. Children are not able to support their head. In some cases of convulsions is also noted with low vitamin D level. Dentition is delayed. Bending at 4th, 5th, and 6th ribs known as rickety rosary. Breast bone is pushed forward producing pigeon’s breast appearance. Muscles and ligaments are weak. They are late in learning to stand and walk.
- Osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adults. There is pain all over the body and bone tenderness. The sites frequently affected are chest, back, pelvis, difficulty in climbing, waddling gait. Spontaneous fracture can occur due to thinning of bone in osteomalacia.
Treatment Of Low Vitamin D
- More exposure under the sun.
- Incorporate food rich in vitamin D. fish, fish oil, fortified food, eggs, milk and milk products etc.
- Addressing the primary cause such as kidney failure, and malabsorption syndrome.
- Eat fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Doctors recommend oral vitamin D supplements available in liquid and tablet forms. In more severe cases doctors may recommend injectable form of vitamin D.