According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insufficient levels of vitamin D affect nearly one third of the people in the United States. At particular risk for vitamin D deficiency are children under the age of twelve. While detection of a vitamin D deficiency can be difficult without a blood test, individuals with low levels of vitamin D often exhibit symptoms such as muscle or joint pain, fatigue or lethargy, depressed mood and bone pain. Depression is a unique symptom because it affects an individual’s psychological well-being and the correlation between vitamin D levels and depression can be very pronounced.
Muscle and Joint Pain
Low levels of vitamin D can result in muscular aches and pains. Pain can be widespread, though joints, tendons and other soft tissues seem to be most impacted by low levels of vitamin D. In fact, people with lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to carry a diagnosis of fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis. In severe cases of vitamin D deficiency, people can experience difficulty performing daily activities. By maintaining healthful levels of vitamin D, people can help prevent or improve muscle and joint pain.
Fatigue is a symptom that is commonly reported by patients to their primary care doctors. In fact, vitamin D deficiency is sometimes misdiagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Studies that have measured levels of vitamin D in people with fatigue found that the majority of patients exhibited deficient levels of vitamin D. Upon correction of vitamin D levels, symptoms such as fatigue and lethargy improved.
Vitamin D plays a prominent role in bone health. Failure to receive adequate vitamin D can result in osteomalacia, a condition that results in softened bones and aching bones. And because softer bones are more prone to bowing or fracturing, people with low levels of vitamin D are at an increased risk of injury. Bones that are particularly likely to be affected by a vitamin D deficiency are the pelvis, hips, lower back and legs. In severe cases, bone pain can become so pronounced that a person’s mobility can become compromised.
People with deficient levels of vitamin D are more prone to experience mood disorders such as depression. By being instrumental in releasing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, vitamin D plays a prominent role in helping to prevent depression. Notably, people who begin taking vitamin D supplements have reported a lessening of their depressive symptoms. Vitamin D’s effectiveness is particularly impactful with senior citizens. A 2006 study of elderly patients found that patients who were most deficient in vitamin D were 11 times more likely to experience depressed mood than patients who received regular doses of the vitamin.