Vitamin D deficiency can develop if a person isn’t getting enough of the vitamin from sunlight. The body creates vitamin D from sunlight on the skin when outdoors, and from late March and early April to the end of September, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight.
But between October and early March, when the weather changes and daylight hours are shorter, some people risk not getting enough sunlight.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin responsible for the regulation of calcium and phosphate in the body – nutrients needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities, such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
But spotting symptoms of vitamin D deficiency early enough can avoid these complications.
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms: Pain when you press a certain part of the body could be a sign
Nutritionist Karen Langston, a spokesperson for the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, told Arthritis Foundation you may have a vitamin D deficiency if you feel pain when you press your breastbone also called the sternum, located in the middle of your chest.
Karen explained what else vitamin D deficiency can cause: “The biggest concern is osteomalacia, or the softening of the bones. In children, it’s called rickets.
“It also can cause brittle bones, weak muscles.
“Other symptoms are fractures of the hip and pelvis, bone pain and tenderness, tooth decay and hearing loss because the bones in the ear become soft.”
Where else can you get vitamin D?
Vitamin D is found in a small number of foods. These include:
- Oily fish
- Read meat
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods – such as most fat spreads and some breakfast cereals
But it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, so the Department for Health advises people consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter months.
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms: Pain when you press your breastbone could be a sign of the condition
Who’s at risk of vitamin D deficiency?
Some people may not get enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure.
The Department of Health recommend you take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if you:
- Aren’t outdoors – for example if you’re frail or housebound
- Are in an institution like a care home
- Usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors
If you have dark skin, for example if you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background, you may also be at risk of not getting enough vitamin D from sunlight.
What happens if you take too much vitamin D?
If you take too many supplements over a long period of time it can cause too much calcium to build up in the body, causing hypercalcaemia.
The NHS warns of the implications: This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.
“If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people.
“Don’t take more than 100 micrograms of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years.
“Children aged 1 to 10 years shouldn’t have more than 50 micrograms a day. Infants under 12 months shouldn’t have more than 25 micrograms a day.
“Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor.”