Vitamin D deficiency: Signs, causes, treatment

Vitamin D deficiency is a critical health concern, affecting overall well-being and resembling the sunshine nutrient, but without the sun-soaked activities.

Throughout this guide, we’ll explore the signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, its causes, and the steps you can take to correct it.

By the time we’re through, you’ll be armed with the tools and insights to make informed decisions about your health. Let’s dive in and uncover the facts about vitamin D deficiency together.

What are the symptoms of low vitamin D?

Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter: the signs and symptoms that may indicate a vitamin D deficiency [1]. It’s like your body sending out subtle distress signals, and it’s crucial to pay attention.

While these symptoms can be attributed to various factors, don’t dismiss the possibility of a vitamin D shortfall. Let’s take a closer look at what your body might be trying to tell you:

1. Fatigue

You know the feeling – you’ve had a good night’s sleep, but you’re still running on empty. This relentless tiredness can be a sign that your body is trying to tell you something.


  • You wake up feeling exhausted, even after a full night’s sleep.
  • Energy levels are consistently low throughout the day.
  • Mundane tasks feel like a Herculean effort.
  • That mid-afternoon slump? It’s your constant companion.

2. Mood swings

No, we’re not referring to your playlist, but rather, your mood swings, irritability, and occasional bouts of sadness. We’ve all been there; life’s ups and downs are perfectly normal.

However, when these emotional rollercoasters become a frequent occurrence, vitamin D might be part of the equation.


  • You might notice that your patience wears thin more easily than before.
  • Little annoyances seem to trigger stronger emotional responses.
  • Feelings of sadness or irritability appear out of the blue.
mood swings

3. Weak muscles and bone pains

It’s like your body is sending signals that something isn’t quite right. Here’s what to look out for:


  • A persistent, unexplained ache in your bones or joints.
  • Muscle weakness, making it harder to tackle everyday tasks [2].
  • You might find yourself feeling more fragile or prone to accidents.

4. Hair loss

We all shed some hair daily, but when it starts to feel excessive, it can be concerning. Here’s what to keep an eye on:


  • Finding more hair in your brush or on your pillow than usual.
  • Thinning hair or noticeable bald spots.
  • A change in the texture and vitality of your hair.

5. Dental issues

Your oral health is essential, and sometimes, it can offer clues about your vitamin D status. Here’s what to be mindful of:


  • Gum problems like bleeding, swelling, or tenderness.
  • Increased tooth decay or cavities despite good oral hygiene.
  • Tooth sensitivity, making hot or cold foods and drinks uncomfortable.

These signs and symptoms may not always point directly to a vitamin D deficiency, as they can overlap with other health conditions.

However, if you notice several of these issues or if they persist over time, it’s a wise move to consult a healthcare professional.

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What is the main cause of vitamin D deficiency?

Let’s dig into the factors that can lead to vitamin D deficiency. It’s crucial to understand the causes so that you can take proactive steps to maintain your health.

Vitamin D deficiency doesn’t discriminate; it can affect anyone, but certain factors can put you at a higher risk [3]. Here, we’ll explore these risk factors without diving into the complexities.

Limited sun exposure

Life’s demands can sometimes keep us indoors more than we’d like, which can affect our vitamin D levels. Here’s why:

  • Indoor lifestyle: Spending most of your day indoors, whether at work, home, or school, means you’re missing out on the sunlight your body needs to produce vitamin D.
  • Covering up: Wearing long sleeves, hats, or sunscreen for protection against harmful UV rays can reduce the skin’s exposure to sunlight, hindering vitamin D synthesis.
  • Urban living: Living in urban areas with tall buildings and limited green spaces can limit your access to direct sunlight, making it harder to soak up those essential rays.

Darker skin pigmentation

Your skin color plays a significant role in how your body produces and utilizes vitamin D. Here’s what you should know:

  • Melanin protection: Melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, acts as a natural sunscreen. It provides protection against harmful UV rays, reducing the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
  • Slower synthesis: People with darker skin have more melanin, which can slow down the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D in response to sunlight. This means that individuals with darker skin may require more sun exposure to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.
  • Latitude matters: The impact of skin pigmentation on vitamin D synthesis becomes more significant at higher latitudes, where sunlight is less intense and available for shorter durations.


As you grow older, your body’s relationship with vitamin D undergoes changes. Here’s how age factors into the equation:

  • Reduced skin efficiency: With age, your skin becomes less efficient at producing vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. This means that even if you spend time outdoors, your body may not synthesize vitamin D as effectively as it once did.
  • Decreased sun exposure: Older adults often spend more time indoors, further limiting their sun exposure. Factors like retirement, mobility issues, or a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to this decrease.
  • Dietary habits: Age-related changes in dietary habits can affect vitamin D intake. Older individuals may have different eating patterns that influence their access to vitamin D-rich foods.


If you’re carrying excess weight, it can impact how your body stores and utilizes this essential nutrient [4]. Here’s how:

  • Vitamin D storage: Vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning it can get sequestered in your body’s fat cells. This storage can reduce the availability of vitamin D in your bloodstream.
  • Reduced bioavailability: Obesity can lower the bioavailability of vitamin D, making it less accessible for your body to use effectively.
  • Insufficient sunlight exposure: People with obesity might also have a reduced inclination for outdoor activities, leading to limited exposure to sunlight, which is essential for vitamin D synthesis.
Vitamin D deficiency: Signs, causes, treatment


Certain medications can interfere with vitamin D metabolism and absorption, potentially leading to deficiency. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Anticonvulsants: Medications used to treat seizures, like phenytoin and phenobarbital, can affect vitamin D metabolism.
  • Glucocorticoids: Corticosteroids, often prescribed for conditions like asthma and autoimmune disorders, can reduce vitamin D absorption.
  • Weight loss drugs: Some weight loss medications may impact the body’s ability to absorb and utilize vitamin D.

Understanding these causes can help you assess your risk factors and make informed choices to prevent vitamin D deficiency.

If you suspect you’re at risk or are experiencing symptoms of deficiency, consulting a healthcare professional and possibly getting a vitamin D blood test can provide clarity on your status and guide appropriate interventions.

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How do you treat vitamin D deficiency?

Let’s dive into the crucial aspects of treatment and prevention of vitamin D deficiency. Knowing how to address and prevent this deficiency can make a significant difference in your overall health. Here’s what you need to know:

Dietary sources of vitamin D

  • Include vitamin D-rich foods in your diet, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, and tuna), egg yolks, fortified dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese), and fortified plant-based alternatives (like almond milk).
  • Consider taking vitamin D supplements, especially if you have limited dietary sources or specific dietary restrictions.

Sunlight exposure

  • Aim for moderate sun exposure, especially during the spring and summer months.
  • Spend about 10-30 minutes in the sun without sunscreen, a few times a week, depending on your skin type and location.
  • Be cautious and avoid excessive sun exposure, which can lead to skin damage.

Lifestyle adjustments

  • Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity. Weight management can improve vitamin D bioavailability.
  • Ensure you engage in outdoor activities regularly, particularly if you have an indoor-centric lifestyle.
  • Avoid excessive use of sunscreen, especially when you’re getting short, safe sun exposure for vitamin D synthesis [5].


  • If your vitamin D levels are significantly low, your healthcare provider may recommend a vitamin D supplement.
  • Follow your provider’s guidance on the dosage and duration of supplementation.

Consultation with healthcare provider

  • If you suspect a vitamin D deficiency or are at risk, consult your healthcare provider.
  • A blood test can determine your vitamin D levels, helping your healthcare provider determine the appropriate treatment or prevention strategy.

Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is a long-term commitment, but it’s one that can significantly impact your overall well-being.

Your health is in your hands, and with the right knowledge and actions, you can ensure that vitamin D deficiency doesn’t hold you back from living your best, healthiest life.

Closing thoughts

Addressing and preventing vitamin D deficiency is essential for your overall health and well-being.

You now have a solid understanding of the signs, causes, and treatment options related to vitamin D deficiency.

By taking these proactive steps, you’re actively investing in your health. Remember, maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is a long-term commitment, but it’s one that can significantly impact your overall well-being.

Your health is in your hands, and with the right knowledge and actions, you can ensure that vitamin D deficiency doesn’t hold you back from living your best, healthiest life.


What are the common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

Common symptoms include fatigue, mood swings, muscle weakness, bone pains, and hair loss.

How can I increase my vitamin D intake through diet?

Include foods like fatty fish, egg yolks, fortified dairy products, and fortified plant-based alternatives in your diet.

Is it safe to get vitamin D from sun exposure?

Short, safe sun exposure, without sunscreen, is generally safe and can help with vitamin D synthesis. However, avoid excessive sun exposure to prevent skin damage.

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Photograph: seventyfourimages/Envato
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.