Vitamin D deficiency is a low level of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is found in a few foods. It is also produced when the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Vitamin D
is stored in the body's liver and fatty tissues.
This health problem can lead to
in children and
in adults. These are two diseases that weaken bones.
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Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by:
- Problems producing vitamin D from the skin's exposure to sunlight
- Not getting enough vitamin D in the diet or from supplements
Not absorbing enough vitamin D from the digestive tract
Problems with the process of converting vitamin D to a form that the body can use
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
- Lack of direct sun exposure from things like:
- Spending a lot of time indoors, such as in long term care facilities
- Wearing clothes that cover most of the skin
- Living in northern latitudes during the winter
- Having darker skin
- Not eating enough foods that contain vitamin D
- Having conditions and procedures that affect the body's ability to absorb vitamin D from the digestive tract, such as:
- Problems that affect the process of converting vitamin D to a form that the body can use, such as:
People with mild to moderate deficiency may not have symptoms. Those with a severe deficiency may have:
- Bone and muscle pain
- Hip pain
- Muscle weakness
- Problems walking, climbing stairs, and getting out of a chair
- Frequent falls
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You may also be asked about your diet.
Your level of vitamin D will be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
The goal of treatment is to increase vitamin D levels. This can be done with:
- Vitamin D supplements
- Ultraviolet light therapy
The risk of this problem may be lowered by:
- Eating foods that contain or are enriched with vitamin D, such as milk, juices, and cereal
- Getting some sun exposure
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. Accessed February 4, 2021.
Dietary supplement fact sheet: vitamin D. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional. Accessed February 4, 2021.
Holick MF. The vitamin D deficiency pandemic: Approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2017 Jun;18(2):153-165
Vitamin D deficiency in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/vitamin-d-deficiency-in-adults. Accessed February 4, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 2/4/2021