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What are the Side Effects of Vitamin D Deficiency?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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Side effects of vitamin D deficiency are often subtle and hard to notice, mostly because they occur slowly over time, not all at once. A simple blood test can determine if one is deficient in vitamin D, which is a vitamin that is produced in the body after one is exposed to the sun; in addition, it can be found in certain foods. The side effects of vitamin D deficiency can vary; a severe deficiency is a leading cause of rickets, which is a type of skeletal disease. Others may experience osteoporosis, heart disease, arthritis, certain types of cancers, dental disease, depression, or even multiple sclerosis as a result of a prolonged deficiency in vitamin D.

Vitamin D is most important in the body because it allows the bones to properly use calcium, keeping the skeletal system strong and healthy. This is why a lack of vitamin D is now known to be associated with rickets, a disease of the skeletal system that leads to soft, fragile bones or skeletal deformities, as well as arthritis and osteoporosis. These are the most common side effects of a vitamin D deficiency, but often osteoporosis does not become known until later in life, making it more difficult or impossible to correct. Earlier symptoms and side effects of vitamin D deficiency may include bone and muscle pain, or poor posture that is difficult to correct.

Other side effects of vitamin D deficiency include mood changes such as depression, most commonly seasonal affective disorder (SAD) due to a lack of sunlight and vitamin D, as well as trouble with memory or concentration. Periodontal disease is also a fairly common side effect that may be noticed earlier by a dentist. In addition, a vitamin D deficiency can make one prone to heart disease, hypertension, or certain cancers, specifically breast cancer or lung cancer, among others. People diagnosed with multiple sclerosis are also often seen to have a vitamin D deficiency.

The best way to prevent any side effects of vitamin D deficiency is to get enough sunlight every day and to take a dietary supplement. About 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure per day is typically all that is needed for the body to produce enough vitamin D, but this can be difficult in winter months or in cold climates, which is why nutritional supplements can be helpful; consult a doctor for the recommended daily amount. Certain foods also contain higher levels of vitamin D, namely fish, meat, eggs, and dairy products.

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