Information About Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a nutrient that is essential for maintaining healthy bones, because it plays a role in allowing the body to absorb the calcium that we get from our diets. We get some vitamin D from our diets, but mostly we get it from exposure to sunlight, as a result of processes that occur in the skin.

Around 10 million people in the UK are thought to have ‘low vitamin D status’. People can be at risk of vitamin D deficiency for a number of reasons:

  • Their skin might not be exposed to much sunlight for cultural reasons (such as wearing religious skin coverings), geographical reasons (living in areas without much sunlight) or lifestyle reasons (spending a lot of time indoors);
  • Their skin might not be able to produce much vitamin D (those with dark skin need more sun exposure to get the same amount of vitamin D compared those with light skin, and older people have thinner skin that is not able to produce as much vitamin D);
  • Their body may be in need of more vitamin D than normal (if they are pregnant or obese, for example).
    Common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include general aches and pains and tiredness. Those with severe vitamin D deficiency may experience bone pain or a feeling of weakness that prevents them from moving around as normal, and are prone to contracting numerous infections. Many with vitamin D deficiency, though, exhibit no symptoms at all.

If you suspect you may have vitamin D deficiency (or be at risk of it) either because of symptoms you have or because you belong to one of the above “at-risk” groups, you should see your GP. Your GP will be able to administer a blood test, which can tell you definitively whether you are vitamin D deficient. Your doctor will also be able to discuss treatment options with you; most cases of vitamin D deficiency are handled by the introduction of vitamin D supplements.

You can find additional information and support for vitamin D deficiency at NHS Choices, Cancer Research UK, Action, Arthritis Research UK, or the National Osteoporosis Society.

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Next review: 24 October 2019