Vitamin D is an essential vitamin in the human diet. This fat-soluble vitamin is needed to maintain bone health. Fortunately, Vitamin D can be easily found in food, including milk and other dairy products such as cheese. Other rich sources of vitamin D are pure cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, pudding, eggs, and beef liver.
However, vitamin D deficiency can still occur even if your diet includes foods that contain vitamin D. How? Sunlight is needed by the body to process vitamin D. So if you live in northern countries where you get little sun exposure, or if you live in sunny countries but are forced to stay inside and covered all the time, then you could be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Below is a guide on how to diagnose vitamin D deficiency.
Find out if you are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. As mentioned earlier, people who do not get enough sunlight are more prone to develop vitamin D deficiency. Aside from that, the following people are at risk for vitamin D deficiency:
- Breast-fed infants. Breast milk is still the best milk for babies. However, prolonged breastfeeding can deprive infants of vitamin D, because breast milk is not fortified with calcium like formula milk.
- People aged 50 and above. As people age, the skin loses the ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight. For vitamin D that makes it to the body, the kidney is less efficient in converting the vitamin D into its active hormone form.
- Dark-skinned people. People with darker skin produce greater melanin, which in turn reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight.
- Obese people. Subcutaneous fat sequesters the vitamin D that is synthesized by the skin. As such, it cannot get released into the body.
Check yourself for symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. It’s really difficult to determine if you are suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Signs of vitamin D deficiency in children and adults are different. For children, you have to look for symptoms of rickets. In this disease, the bones turn soft and bend under weight. As such, children with rickets have bowed legs and arms.
Adults suffering from vitamin D deficiency usually develop osteomalacia. People who have this disease suffer from reduced bone strength, an increase in bone fractures, and sometimes bone pain, muscle weakness, and a waddling walk. These are the symptoms you should look out for when you suspect yourself of having vitamin D deficiency.
Visit the doctor. Once you suspect that you or your child has vitamin D deficiency, a trip to the doctor is what you should do next. The doctor will refer you to the laboratory, where you will get your blood tested for the level of blood plasma 25-hydroxy-vitamin, blood plasma calcium, and blood plasma parathyroid hormone. You will also be asked to have an x-ray examination of your bones. This will allow the doctor to see patterns of irregularities, abnormalities, and a coarse appearance in the bone structure, which characterizes rickets and osteomalacia.