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Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms – Is Osteoporosis a Sign of Insufficient Vitamin D?
Rickets and associated bone deformities in children are the most well-known symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in poor countries. But in developed countries, the symptoms are subtle and can be overlooked until a person’s health is significantly compromised.
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms are more common in the elderly, institutionalized or hospitalized. In the United States, 60% of nursing home residents and 57% of hospitalized patients are vitamin D deficient.
But vitamin D deficiency is not limited to the elderly or those in hospital. Studies have also found a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency symptoms in young adults. One study determined that nearly two-thirds of healthy young adults in Boston had symptoms of vitamin D deficiency by the end of winter.
The most extreme vitamin D deficiency symptoms are burning in the mouth and throat, nervousness, sweaty scalp, diarrhea, insomnia, bone mineral weakness, and nearsightedness. Although these extreme symptoms are unusual in developed countries, they still exist in certain parts of the population and can be a warning sign of rickets or osteomalcia.
RACHITISM AND OSTEOMALACIA
Rickets is a childhood disease characterized by stunted growth and deformed bones, including tilting of the legs. In the Western world, around 1900, finding children under the age of 2 free from rickets would have been difficult in an urban setting. But rickets was almost completely eradicated once it was discovered to be one of the most common vitamin D deficiency symptoms. In the 1930s, fortifying milk with 400 IU of vitamin D per liter of milk led to the most dramatic decline in the number of rickets cases in the United States. Daily consumption of a tablespoon of cod liver oil also became a common part of children’s daily routines…even though adults didn’t swallow their own medicine. Currently, premature babies are the only group that still has a relatively high risk of developing rickets. Infants who are breastfed solely as a source of nutrition for more than six months are also at increased risk.
The milder adult form of rickets is usually called osteomalacia. Osteomalacia is also caused by vitamin D deficiency or an underlying condition that prevents proper absorption or conversion of vitamin D. In adults, it is usually manifested by widespread body pain, muscle weakness and brittle bones or stress fractures rather than the deformed bones we associate. with rickets. These symptoms can be subtle and go unnoticed in the early stages of the disease.
Osteomalacia is also rare in wealthy countries, although Muslim women wearing chadors have a higher risk of deficiency due to underexposure to the sun. If these women breastfeed their babies without the benefit of supplements, the children may also be at higher risk of developing symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by a reduction in bone mineral density and an increased risk of bone fractures. Osteoporosis is a major public health threat to approximately 44 million Americans…or 55% of those age 50 and older. In the United States, an estimated 10 million people have osteoporosis and another 34 million have low bone mass, which puts them at increased risk for osteoporosis. Eighty percent of people affected by osteoporosis are women and twenty percent are men.
Vitamin D deficiency contributes to osteoporosis by decreasing the absorption of calcium from the intestines. As bone density increases and erodes over the years, symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may go unnoticed until there is a bone fracture (often in the hip or wrist ) and have the patient undergo a bone density analysis.
Vitamin D malnutrition may also be linked to an increased susceptibility to several chronic diseases. Research suggests that these include:
- High blood pressure
- Cancer (breast, colon, prostate and pancreas)
- periodontal disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- chronic pain
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Peripheral artery disease
- Cognitive impairment (memory loss)
- Autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes
There is also an association between low vitamin D levels and Parkinson’s disease, but it is not clear whether Parkinson’s disease causes low vitamin D levels or whether low vitamin D levels play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease.
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