Vitamin D deficiency symptoms: The easily missed sign you may lack the ‘sunshine vitamin’

Vitamin D is a nutrient the body creates from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. Although most people people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from about late March/early April to the end of September, between October and early March, people don’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults. It may come as a surprise that it may also cause fatigue.

Case studies have revealed that very low blood levels can cause fatigue

Case studies have revealed that very low blood levels can cause fatigue.

In one case, a woman who complained of chronic daytime fatigue and headaches was found to have a vitamin D blood level of only 5.9 ng/ml.

This is extremely low, as anything under 20 ng/ml is considered deficient.

Further supporting the link, when the woman took a vitamin D supplement, her level increased to 39 ng/ml and her symptoms resolved.

Another large observational study in female nurses looked at the relationship between vitamin D and fatigue in young women.

The researchers found that 89 per cent of the nurses were deficient.

Another lesser-known symptom is depression. In several review studies, researchers have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression, particularly in older adults.

In one analysis, 65 per cent of the observational studies found a relationship between low blood levels and depression.

Further bolstering the link, some controlled studies have shown that giving vitamin D to people who are deficient helps improve depression, including seasonal depression that occurs during the colder months.

Who is at risk of a vitamin D deficiency?

Some people won’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure.

The Department of Health recommends that a person takes a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if they:

  • Aren’t often outdoors – for example, if they’re frail or housebound
  • Are in an institution like a care home
  • Usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors

If they have dark skin – for example if they have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background – they may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight, explained the health body.

The NHS warns against taking too many vitamin D supplements, however.

As the health body explained: “Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia).

“This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.”

If a person chooses to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people, advised the health site.

People can also top up in the vitamin in their diet in the winter months.

Foods rich in vitamin D include:

Egg yolk

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