Vitamin D is a fat-soluble steroidal substance that is essential for the regulation of normal body functions. It plays an instrumental part in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus which go from the intestine to the blood. Deficiency of Vitamin D is reported in 14-59% of the adult Asian population. It is a serious health problem that should never be ignored.
Vitamin D Deficiency Leading to Serious Health Conditions
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the absorption of two very important minerals: calcium and phosphorus. The deficiency of vitamin D impairs the absorption of these minerals, which leads to a number of medical conditions. Some of these conditions include:
Osteoporosis is the weakening of bones which can happen because of a number of reasons. The most common of them is vitamin D deficiency. Calcium is an important component that makes our bones, but it is also required for a number of other body functions. When the body is unable to absorb the required amount of calcium because of vitamin D deficiency, it initiates a compensatory mechanism.
The compensatory mechanism takes the calcium from bones and uses it elsewhere in the body. As a result of this calcium transfer, the bones start to weaken. This makes the bones and joints more susceptible to fractures and cracks. This problem is most commonly observed in the aged population.
Osteomalacia is the softening of bones as a result of calcium and vitamin D deficiency. During the development phase, our bones are rapidly growing and they need calcium. To ensure that bones are getting enough calcium, vitamin D is necessary. Lack of enough calcium leads to suboptimal growth which produces soft bones that are prone to fractures and cracks.
This condition is most common in children and can be diagnosed by examining their walking patterns.
Parathyroid glands are located in our neck region and are responsible for the regulation of calcium within our body. As the level of calcium drops in our body owing to vitamin D deficiency, these glands secrete large amounts of parathyroid hormone which leads to excess calcium in our bloodstream. It causes a plethora of medical problems that include:
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble in concentrating
- Nausea and Vomiting
Vitamin D deficiency also impacts muscles and weakens them. This leads to the feeling of tiredness, inability to walk or run for long distances, impaired ability to hold weights, and muscular pain. Patients who are experiencing these symptoms need to seek professional advice to prevent further complications and resolve the problems.
Risk of Cancer
Several studies have pointed out that vitamin D deficiency can lead to a number of cancers. Vitamin D and its derivatives decrease rapid cell proliferation by activating a number of genes in our body. The deficiency impairs the activation of cancer-preventing genes and produces several types of organ-specific cancers. Most common cancers associated with vitamin D deficiency include:
- Colon Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
Impaired Immune System
Vitamin D is important for the functioning of almost all the cells that make up our immune system. The poor vitamin D status in the body produces abnormalities in these cells which lead to a number of autoimmune diseases. Commonly observed conditions because of the impaired immune system owing to vitamin D deficiency include:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Upper respiratory infections
- COPD exacerbation
There is sufficient evidence to support the fact that vitamin deficiencies can contribute to the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular events like strokes and heart attacks. Patients who already have a history of heart disease in the family are at higher risk.
There are a number of factors that put individuals at higher risk of acquiring diabetes. Vitamin D deficiency is one of them and it can produce both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes mellitus in patients. Vitamin D improves the functioning of the pancreas, which is responsible for insulin production. It also sensitizes cells for the insulin in the body. Deficiency of vitamins results in the loss of both functions and as result leads to diabetes.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency vary from patient to patient both in terms of frequency and intensity. It is possible that not all patients experience the same symptoms. With that said, these are the most common symptoms:
- Joint Pain
- Cardiovascular problems
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent muscle spasms
Causes of Vitamin D deficiency
- Vitamin D deficiency originates because of:
- Decreased intake of vitamin D
- Inability to absorb and metabolize vitamin D
- Decreased exposure to sunlight
Individuals at Higher Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency
Although vitamin D deficiency can arise in any individual, there are certain populations that are at a higher level of risk. These include:
- Pregnant Females
- Patients with chronic kidney diseases
- Malnourished people
- Patients with primary hyperparathyroidism
- Aged People
Should You Take Vitamin D supplements?
Like the deficiency of Vitamin D, over-supplementation of it can also lead to medical problems especially in people who have underlying liver disease. That is why you must check with your physician or pharmacist before taking such supplements. Get adequate information about vitamin D doses and possible side effects to avoid potential problems.
Vitamin D deficiency is a serious medical problem that should never be ignored. Contrary to popular belief, the problems are not limited to just the skeletal system. You can experience a number of extra-skeleton symptoms as well. It is best to seek expert advice if you are experiencing any of the symptoms stated above.
Transparent Hands is a non-profit organization that provides free medical treatments to the underprivileged in Pakistan. We also provide orthopedic surgeries and procedures. We need the support of donors like you to bring quality health care to even more deserving patients this year. Donate generously