Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms: 9 Signs You Need To Know 2023

Sevginur Akdas

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

vitamin d deficiency symptoms

We are surrounded by another pandemic, even bigger than COVID-19, which affects more people worldwide. According to researchers and clinicians, Vitamin D deficiency is a pandemic[1] related to many diseases. 

It is one of the most important vitamins that is generally seen as deficient. These physiologic relations with body health make vitamin D deficiency present with a variety of different symptoms.

Furthermore, many doctors ignore vitamin D deficiency, not addressing it with their patients or even informing them of their low values, so being a proactive patient is important. You want your blood levels of vitamin D to be above 30 nanograms per milliliter, and below 20 is deficient. 

In this article, you can find a vitamin D deficiency symptoms list and also answers to the following questions, “What does vitamin D deficiency cause?” and “What to do if you face vitamin D deficiency symptoms?”

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

  1. Fatigue 
  2. Frequent illness
  3. Muscle cramps and weakness
  4. Bone and joint pain
  5. Mood changes
  6. Hair loss
  7. Skin Problems
  8. Delayed wound healing
  9. Weight gain

Key Takeaways

  • Scientific reports suggest that vitamin D deficiency occurs in approximately 1 billion people worldwide, and around 50% of the global population has vitamin D insufficiency, which puts you at risk for an outright vitamin D deficiency. 
  • You can concurrently have several vitamin D deficiency symptoms, such as skin and hair loss problems. 
  • If you have delayed wound healing, these symptoms can be signs of vitamin D deficiency.
  • You may feel fatigued or depressed or may have muscle cramps and bone and joint pain if you have vitamin D deficiency. 
  • There is a relation between weight gain and high body fat with vitamin D deficiency. 
  • If you get sick frequently, checking your vitamin D levels is beneficial because it contributes to immune function.

9 Signs Of Vitamin D Deficiency

What happens if you don’t get enough vitamin D? Can a vitamin D deficiency cause anxiety, weight gain, hair loss, joint pain, and swelling?

Here are the symptoms of low Vitamin D levels you can face. 

Fatigue 

vitamin d deficiency symptoms

In both developed and developing countries, fatigue[2] is a common issue reported in primary care settings. Its effects can be detrimental, resulting in reduced quality of life and productivity loss at work.

Feeling tired and fatigued all the time is one of the main vitamin D deficiency symptoms in adults. Many people consult their doctor with this complaint, and when they do a blood test, it is generally seen that they have low vitamin D levels. 

When vitamin D was supplemented in otherwise healthy people with Vitamin D deficiency, self-reported fatigue frequency was improved[2] significantly compared to the placebo group. 

Frequent Illness And Inflammation

vitamin d deficiency symptoms

Vitamin D is important for maintaining your healthy immune functions.[3] Therefore if you have vitamin D deficiency, your immunity can be impaired, and you may be more open to infections and diseases. 

If you get frequent flu, cold, or other infectious diseases, you may consider checking your vitamin D levels if you don’t have any other organic reason for your immunity.

Muscle Cramps And Weakness

vitamin d deficiency symptoms

Vitamin D plays an important role in muscle function,[4] and a deficiency in this vitamin can contribute to muscle cramps and weakness.

Vitamin D helps to regulate the absorption of calcium, which is necessary for proper muscle function. When there is a deficiency in vitamin D, the body may not be able to absorb calcium effectively, leading to muscle cramps and spasms.

Bone And Joint Pain

vitamin d deficiency symptoms

When we discuss vitamin D deficiency, we need to mention calcium absorption and bio-availability. There is a close relationship between vitamin D and calcium metabolism[5] which is essential for bone health. 

In case of low vitamin D levels, the body is less able to absorb calcium, leading to weakened bones and an increased risk of fractures.

Together, vitamin D and calcium[6] work synergistically to promote bone health. Calcium provides the structural component of bones, while vitamin D helps to regulate calcium levels in the body, promoting efficient absorption of calcium from food and supplements and preventing calcium loss from bones.

Insufficient intake of either vitamin D or calcium can lead to osteoporosis, characterized by brittle and weakened bones that are more prone to fractures. Therefore, it is important to maintain adequate levels of both vitamin D and calcium in the body to ensure optimal bone health.

How It Affects Joints

Some evidence suggests that vitamin D may play a role in reducing joint pain, particularly in people with conditions that affect the joints, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.[7] These diseases have inflammatory states, and as we mentioned above, vitamin D helps to reduce inflammation in the body.

In addition, vitamin D is important for maintaining healthy bones and muscles, which can also help to reduce joint pain. When our muscles are weak, or our bones are fragile, it can put extra stress on our joints, leading to pain and discomfort. Vitamin D may help reduce this stress on the joints and alleviate joint pain.

Depression And Mood Changes

vitamin d deficiency symptoms

Scientists looked at a large group of people to see if there was a connection between Vitamin D and depression or anxiety.[8] People with lower levels of Vitamin D were more likely to have depression or anxiety, and they also found specific genes related to mental disorders also interacted with vitamin D.

The administration of vitamin D[9] for eight weeks resulted in an increase in vitamin D levels of individuals with mild to moderate depression. This increase in vitamin D levels was associated with a significant improvement in depression severity examined with the Beck Depression Inventory-II index.

A meta-analysis published in 2022[10] declared that vitamin D has a beneficial impact on both the incidence and the prognosis of depression. 

Hair Loss

vitamin d deficiency symptoms

Hair loss is one of the most common vitamin D deficiency symptoms in men and women. Because vitamin D is important for hair growth by contributing to hair follicle growth and differentiation, and development. 

Researchers[11] suggest that when people have low levels of vitamin D in their blood, they may be more likely to experience hair loss from certain conditions like telogen effluvium, androgenetic alopecia, scarring alopecia, alopecia areata, and trichotillomania.

When women with hair loss due to stress or shock received vitamin D therapy, it resulted in an improvement of the condition by 82.5%. The use of oral vitamin D supplements in the amounts of 200,000 IU once every two weeks for a total of six doses in three months contributed to hair regrowth[12] in these women. Note that this is an extremely high repletion[13] dose given that the tolerable upper limit for healthy adults is 4,000 IU[14] and for medically supervised 10,000 IU per day.

Skin Problems 

vitamin d deficiency symptoms

If you have persistent skin problems, you may also consider checking your vitamin D level because it has been associated with skin conditions.[15] 

A study showed that vitamin D supplements could help improve atopic dermatitis[16] (eczema) symptoms due to the winter season. This suggests that vitamin D may be a helpful addition to the treatment plan for individuals with atopic dermatitis living in areas with limited sun exposure.

Vitamin D levels also decreased in individuals with other skin problems[15] such as psoriasis, vitiligo, and systemic lupus erythematosus. 

Delayed Wound Healing

vitamin d deficiency symptoms

If you realize that the healing process is delayed in your body, it can be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. 

Vitamin D plays an important role in wound healing by regulating the immune response, promoting the production of new blood vessels, and supporting the growth and differentiation of skin cells and calcium regulation for the healing process.[17] 

Vitamin D deficiency can impair wound healing and increase the risk of complications, such as infections. Therefore, it’s important to maintain adequate vitamin D levels to support proper wound healing. 

Weight Gain

vitamin d deficiency symptoms

There is evidence suggesting a link between vitamin D deficiency and weight gain, but the relationship is complex and not fully understood.

A meta-analysis[18] study showed an association between body mass index, body fat mass, and vitamin D deficiency. 

It is stated that vitamin D might inhibit fat tissue production through actions modulated by vitamin D-dependent receptors in the cells. 

If you have excessive weight, that may lead to vitamin D deficiency, as vitamin D is stored in fat cells. While the evidence is not conclusive, it’s clear that maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is important for overall health and may have some benefits for weight management.

What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency?

Several risk factors can contribute to vitamin D deficiency, including:

  1. Lack of sunlight exposure: The body produces vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure, so people who live in areas with limited sunlight or who spend a lot of time indoors may be at risk for deficiency.
  2. Dark skin: People with dark skin have more melanin, which can reduce the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D in response to sunlight.
  3. Age: As people age, their skin becomes less efficient at producing vitamin D, which can lead to deficiency.
  4. Obesity: Vitamin D is stored in fat cells, but for reasons we don’t understand yet, being overweight tends to cause lower levels of vitamin D to be present in the blood. Some hypothesize that overweight people are more sedentary, spending less time outdoors, and others claim it is their poor diet.
  5. Dietary factors: While vitamin D is found in some foods, it can be difficult to get enough through diet alone, particularly if you are a vegetarian or vegan.
  6. Certain health conditions: Some medical conditions, such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease, can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D from food.
  7. Medications: Certain medications, such as anticonvulsants and glucocorticoids, can interfere with vitamin D absorption and metabolism.

Risks Of Vitamin D Inadequacy

Vitamin D inadequacy can have a range of negative health effects, both in the short and long term.

  1. Increased risk of bone fractures: Vitamin D is important for bone health and helps the body absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, and more susceptible to fractures.
  2. Muscle weakness and falls: Vitamin D helps to maintain muscle strength and coordination, and inadequate vitamin D levels can increase the risk of falls[19] and fractures in older adults.
  3. Impaired immune function: Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating the immune system, and inadequate levels can increase the risk of infections, autoimmune disorders, and other immune-related conditions.
  4. Increased risk of chronic diseases: Some studies have linked vitamin D inadequacy with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
  5. Mental health issues: Some evidence suggests that inadequate vitamin D levels may be associated with an increased risk of depression and other mental health conditions.
  6. Pregnancy complications: Vitamin D inadequacy during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and preterm birth.

Ways To Treat Vitamin D Deficiency

vitamin d deficiency symptoms
  • Sunlight exposure: Spending time outdoors in the sunlight is one of the best ways to increase your vitamin D levels because it is synthesized by skin cells under sun exposure.
vitamin d deficiency symptoms
  • Vitamin D supplement: If you’re not getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and food sources, supplements can help increase your intake. Your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist can help you determine the right dosage based on your individual needs.
  • The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for infants is 400 IU per day. As children grow, their recommended daily intake increases to 600 IU per day at the age of one and stays the same throughout adulthood. For elderly people, the recommended daily intake increases to 800 IU per day. Furthermore, studies have shown that vitamin D3 is more effective in raising 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels than vitamin D2.
vitamin d deficiency symptoms
  • Dietary sources: It is very obvious that you can not treat your vitamin D deficiency by consuming vitamin D-rich foods, including fatty fish like salmon and egg yolks, and fortified foods like milk and cereal, but you can contribute to your treatment with these foods 
vitamin d deficiency symptoms
  • Treating underlying health conditions: If an underlying health condition causes your vitamin D deficiency, treating that condition may help increase your vitamin D levels.

Conclusion

Vitamin D deficiency affects millions of people in the world. Due to its effects on nearly every metabolic pathway, vitamin D deficiency can give different signals from person to person. 

The most common signs of vitamin D deficiency are fatigue, muscle weakness, bone and joint pain, impaired immunity, depressive symptoms, weight gain, hair, and skin problems. 

To avoid deficiency, it is important to spend time outdoors, using mindful supplementation by consulting your doctor or registered dietitian and treating the underlying physiological condition that leads to the deficiency. 


+ 19 sources

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  1. Holick, M.F. (2017). The vitamin D deficiency pandemic: Approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders, [online] 18(2), pp.153–165. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11154-017-9424-1.
  2. Nowak, A., Boesch, L., Andres, E., Battegay, E., Hornemann, T., Schmid, C., Bischoff-Ferrari, H.A., Suter, P.M. and Krayenbuehl, P.-A. (2016). Effect of vitamin D3 on self-perceived fatigue. Medicine, [online] 95(52), p.e5353. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/md.0000000000005353.
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Sevginur Akdas

Written by:

Sevginur Akdas, RD

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Sevginur Akdas is a researcher, medical writer, and clinical dietitian, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in metabolism, chronic diseases, and clinical nutrition fields. She has many scientific articles, meta-analyses, systematic reviews, and book chapters on nutrition, chronic diseases, dietary supplements, maternal and child nutrition, molecular nutrition & functional foods topics as a part of a research team currently. Besides her academic background, she is also a professional health&medical writer since 2017.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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