What Are Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

10 min read
Jan 12, 2024
What Are Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
What Are Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

When the body doesn't get enough vitamin D from food or sunlight, it becomes vitamin D deficient. Osteoporosis, fractured bones, and decreased bone density can all result from vitamin D insufficiency.

Because it is produced by the body from cholesterol when exposed to sunlight, vitamin D is commonly referred to as the "sunshine vitamin."

Particularly in relation to COVID-19, this vitamin has recently attracted a lot of interest for its function in immunological health. It's also essential for several vital bodily processes, including the health of your bones.

The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for most adults is 1,500–2,000 international units (IU). Even though some foods, such dairy products with added nutrients and fatty fish, do contain this vitamin, it might be challenging to consume enough of it through food alone.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that one of the most prevalent nutritional deficits in the world is vitamin D deficiency.

This article discusses vitamin D and the need to consume adequate amounts of it.


Why is vitamin D such a big deal?

Fat-soluble vitamin D is essential for healthy bone development and strong immunity, among other bodily functions. It may even guard against a number of chronic illnesses and help prevent cancer, such as:

  • Bone loss
  • Depression
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Multiple sclerosis

The vitamin's blood levels are low in an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.

Nearly 42% of American adults, according to one assessment of studies, are vitamin D deficient. With regard to African American adults, this percentage rises to 82% and nearly 63%, respectively.

As a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin D is essential for immunity and bone health, among other areas of health.

Symptoms and indicators of insufficient vitamin D

Because signs of vitamin D deficiency may not appear for months or years, it can be challenging to identify the condition. Sometimes you might not even experience any symptoms.

Even with that in mind, it helps to be aware of the symptoms and indicators to watch out for.

Recurring diseases or illnesses

One of vitamin D's most significant functions is immune system support, which helps you fight off bacteria and viruses that can make you sick.

Direct interactions between vitamin D and the cells that fight infections occur.

If you are prone to illness, particularly from colds or the flu, low vitamin D levels could be a role. Numerous extensive observational studies have demonstrated a connection between a deficit and upper respiratory tract illnesses, including pneumonia, bronchitis, and colds.

Taking up to 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily has been linked to a lower incidence of respiratory tract infections, according to several studies.

A recent study has connected a vitamin D deficiency to a higher chance of contracting COVID-19 and suffering serious side effects from the illness. It's crucial to remember that taking vitamin D pills won't stop COVID-19, whatever of dosage.

Fatigue and tiredness

One of the many reasons someone may feel exhausted is a vitamin D deficiency.

In contrast to more obvious reasons such as stress, melancholy, and sleeplessness, vitamin D deficiency is frequently disregarded as a possible cause of exhaustion.

In one study, vitamin D insufficiency was associated with complaints of weariness in 480 older persons.

Furthermore, low vitamin D levels have been linked to poor sleep quality, shorter sleep durations, and later bedtimes in a research including 39 children.

Low vitamin D levels and self-reported weariness were found to be strongly correlated in one observational study involving female nurses. Furthermore, this vitamin was lacking in 89% of the subjects.

It's interesting to note that taking supplements of this vitamin may lessen the degree of exhaustion experienced by those who lack it.

Still, more investigation is required.

Bone and back pain

Low vitamin D levels may be the cause of bone and lower back discomfort.

By enhancing the body's ability to absorb calcium, vitamin D supports the maintenance of healthy bones.

Lower levels of vitamin D were associated with more severe pain in one study including 98 persons with lower back pain. A thorough analysis of the literature revealed that this connection varied throughout comparable studies.

Additionally, a review of 81 research revealed that vitamin D levels were typically lower in those with arthritis, muscle soreness, and chronic widespread pain than in those without these disorders.

However, further research is still required.


Depression has been connected to vitamin D insufficiency, particularly in older persons, while the findings of certain studies are mixed.

Supplemental vitamin D has been associated with a variety of outcomes; nonetheless, certain reviews have indicated that it can help reduce depressive symptoms.

To fully comprehend the connection between vitamin D and depression, more research is still required.

Impaired wound healing

After surgery or an injury, sluggish wound healing could indicate low vitamin D levels.

In fact, a test-tube study's findings indicate that vitamin D promotes the synthesis of substances essential for the formation of new skin during the wound-healing process.

A comprehensive analysis of four research revealed that certain aspects of dental surgery patients' recuperation were hampered by vitamin D insufficiency.

The function of vitamin D in managing infections and reducing inflammation may also be crucial for appropriate recovery.

An earlier study including 221 participants—112 of whom had foot infections caused by diabetes—found that individuals with severe vitamin D insufficiency had greater levels of inflammatory markers, which can impair recovery.

Sixty individuals with diabetic foot ulcers participated in a 12-week trial. Those who took a vitamin D supplement showed a substantial improvement in wound healing when compared to the placebo group.

Still, more investigation is required.

Bone loss

The metabolism of bones and the absorption of calcium depend heavily on vitamin D.

This is significant since taking calcium and vitamin D concurrently maximizes absorption by the body.

Your bones may have lost calcium and other minerals if you have low bone mineral density. This makes fractures more likely in elderly persons, particularly in women.

A clear correlation between low vitamin D levels and low bone mineral density was discovered by researchers in a sizable observational study involving over 1,100 middle-aged menopausal or postmenopausal women.

However, there have been conflicting findings in studies on the use of vitamin D supplementation therapy in independent older persons. While some research indicates certain advantages, such lessened muscular soreness, other studies have not demonstrated that it prevents fractures caused by bone loss.

According to one study, women with low blood levels of vitamin D did not see an increase in bone mineral density even though their blood levels did.

However, consuming enough vitamin D may be a smart way to preserve your bone mass and lower your risk of fracture.

Hair loss

Hair health may be impacted by a variety of diets and nutrients.

Although a typical cause of hair loss is stress, a disease or nutrient deficit may be the cause of significant hair loss.

Although there is not enough data, low vitamin D levels are associated with hair loss in women.

Specifically, research links low vitamin D levels to alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that causes excessive hair loss.

A study conducted on individuals suffering from this illness linked more severe hair loss to reduced levels of vitamin D. Applying a synthetic form of vitamin D topically for 12 weeks dramatically boosted hair regrowth in 48 participants with this disease, according to another study.

Vitamin D levels and non-scarring hair loss may be inversely correlated, according to another assessment of studies. This indicates that less hair loss was seen in the study and vice versa, the greater the vitamin D levels.

Muscle pain

It is frequently challenging to identify the exact source of muscular soreness. Evidence, however, points to a possible cause: a vitamin D shortage.

An earlier study discovered that 71% of patients with persistent pain had a vitamin deficit.

The nerve cells that experience pain, known as nociceptors, include the vitamin D receptor. Additionally, this vitamin might be connected to the pain signaling pathways in your body, which could contribute to chronic pain.

According to a few studies, persons who are deficient in vitamin D may experience a reduction in a variety of pains while taking high-dose supplements.

One study indicated that a single dosage of vitamin D lowered pain scores by an average of 57% in 120 youngsters experiencing growing pains due to a vitamin D deficit.

Weight gain

One risk factor for vitamin D insufficiency is obesity.

A probable correlation between low vitamin D status and weight gain and belly fat was discovered in an adult study; however, the effects were more noticeable in men.

Although obesity may be associated with vitamin D deficiency, more research is required to evaluate whether taking supplements of this vitamin can assist avoid weight gain.


Anxiety disorders are associated with a vitamin D deficiency.

A research discovered that individuals with anxiety and depression had reduced levels of calcidiol, a kind of vitamin D.

Adequate vitamin D levels may help prevent postpartum depression, lessen anxiety symptoms, and enhance sleep quality in pregnant women, according to a different study.

Further study is still required.

A lack of vitamin D can show up as a number of symptoms, such as depression symptoms, hair loss, exhaustion, back pain, and slow wound healing.

What is the reason of a lack of vitamin D?

Blood levels below 20 ng/mL are usually seen as indicative of a vitamin D deficiency, whereas values between 21 and 29 ng/mL are deemed inadequate.

Despite the fact that deficiencies have no one specific cause, certain underlying medical disorders or lifestyle choices may increase your total risk. The following are some of the most typical risk factors for vitamin D deficiency:

  • Having dark skin
  • Being older
  • Having overweight or obesity
  • Not eating much fish or dairy
  • Living far from the equator or in regions with little sunlight year-round
  • Staying or working indoors
  • Working overnight shifts
  • Having chronic kidney disease, liver disease, or hyperparathyroidism
  • Having a health condition that affects nutrient absorption, such as crohn’s disease or celiac disease
  • Having gastric bypass surgery
  • Using certain medications that affect vitamin d metabolism, such as statins and steroids

Due to the fact that their skin produces enough vitamin D, those who live close to the equator and spend a lot of time in the sun are less likely to be deficient.

It is vital to use sunscreen to prevent skin damage and cancer risk from sun exposure, even if those who use it frequently outside are also more likely to be deficient in it.

If you are more likely to experience a deficiency, speak with a healthcare provider about your vitamin D status.

There is no one cause of vitamin D insufficiency; instead, a variety of environmental, behavioral, genetic, medical, and nutritional factors may be involved.

How is a vitamin D deficit treated?

Vitamin D insufficiency is frequently treated with supplements. A medical practitioner may suggest one of the following courses of action if they determine that you are deficient.


Oral supplements are the standard treatment for vitamin D deficiency. These are easily obtained over-the-counter, however you should consult a physician for dosage recommendations.

Vitamin D is activated by magnesium, so you might want to take this mineral as well.

In cases of severe deficiency, prescription vitamin D, available in much greater doses up to 50,000 IU, may be advised by a physician. Injections of vitamin D may also be recommended by your doctor.

Food sources

Consuming more meals high in vitamin D may also raise your levels. Choices consist of:

  • Fatty fish
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified cereals
  • Fortified milk and juices
  • Yogurt
  • Beef liver

Going outside more frequently may also be advised by your doctor, as sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D.

However, it's crucial to take preventative measures by limiting the amount of time you spend in the sun and wearing sunscreen because of the harmful consequences of excessive UV exposure.

The standard treatments for vitamin D shortage include food sources, supplements, and moderate sun exposure.

Vitamin D insufficiency tests

Performing basic blood tests can assist in determining the presence of a vitamin D deficit. There are two versions of this vitamin in your blood:

  • 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25-OH D), or calcidiol
  • 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D, or calcitriol

The 25-hydroxy vitamin D test is the most widely used method of determining vitamin D insufficiency. This is because 25-hydroxy, also known as calcidiol, is more easily detectable due to its higher concentrations and longer blood half-life.

Additionally, you might be able to do an at-home test where you prick your finger to obtain a tiny drop of blood on your own. Even if these tests are easily available and convenient, you might still want assistance from a medical professional in understanding the results.

Both at-home testing and blood work performed in a medical facility or doctor's office can be used to assess your vitamin D status.

When to see a doctor

The signs of a vitamin D shortage might be subtle, making diagnosis challenging. Moreover, a vitamin D deficit might exist without presenting any symptoms.

Generally speaking, if you observe any potential symptoms, especially if you have any risk factors, think about asking a doctor to check for vitamin D deficiency.

In addition, your physician might be able to rule out alternative explanations for some of your symptoms.

Speak with a medical practitioner about getting tested if you think you may have vitamin D insufficiency or if you are at higher risk of developing the illness.

The bottom line

Although vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly widespread, it can be difficult to distinguish between it and other medical conditions because the symptoms are sometimes vague and mild.

A blood test should be requested from a medical expert if you suspect a deficiency.

Supplements are typically used to address vitamin D insufficiency; however, a doctor's assistance may be necessary to determine the appropriate amount. You can also benefit from consuming more foods high in vitamin D, such as fortified dairy products and fatty fish, and getting more sun exposure.

Addressing a vitamin D deficiency is worthwhile and can have lasting advantages for your health.