Symptoms of a Vitamin D Deficiency
A lack of vitamin D can result in a general feeling of tiredness and aches and pains within the muscles and joints. If left untreated, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to muscle weakness and bone pain.
This in turn can result in stress fractures in the bones, particularly so in the legs, hips and pelvis and osteomalacia, a condition that causes soft, weak bones. Eventually, it can lead to osteoporosis, a serious condition that causes brittle bones that fracture easily. In children, a vitamin D deficiency can result in a similar condition, called rickets that causes bone deformities and weaknesses.
How Can a Vitamin D Deficiency Develop?
As the majority of our vitamin D is produced when we expose our skin to daylight, we can become more at risk of becoming vitamin D deficient during the autumn and winter months, when there’s fewer hours of daylight and we’re more likely to be covering our skin with heavier clothing.
It’s therefore recommended that we take a daily vitamin D supplement from October to March.
There are groups of people that are also more at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency, including those who:
• Cover their skin for religious, cultural or other reasons, all year round
• Have darker skin, in particular anyone with an African, Caribbean or south Asian background (higher levels of the skin pigment melanin means less sunlight can be absorbed)
• Are housebound or too frail or unwell to be outside often
• Spend the majority of their time inside, such as those in a care home, hospital or prison
• Use a high factor sunscreen on a regular basis on all exposed skin
• Live in a city that might have high levels of pollution or lots of tall buildings, both of which can block sunlight
If you think you might be at risk of a deficiency, you should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement all year round.