Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a loss of bone density, which can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures (broken bones). Severe vitamin D deficiency can also lead to other diseases. In adults, severe vitamin D deficiency leads to osteomalacia. Osteomalacia causes weak bones, bone pain, and muscle weakness. In children, it can cause rickets. Rickets is a rare disease that causes the bones to become soft and bend.
Treatment with medication
You can buy vitamin D supplements at most pharmacies and supermarkets, but if the levels are very low you often need a higher dose. You can buy a high strength vitamin, marketed as “Hux D3” over the pharmacy counter. A pharmacist will be able to advise you on dosing regimen and treatment duration as several vitamin D loading dose treatment regimens are available.
Contraindications and cautions for taking vitamin D supplements
Some people have medical conditions such as kidney or liver problems, that mean they may not be able to safely take vitamin D safely. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor first. Please note that potential drug interactions are also associated with vitamin D so please seek specialist advice from a pharmacist or your doctor as appropriate during concurrent treatment with these drugs.
Sources of Vitamin D
From about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. But between October and early March we do not make enough vitamin D from sunlight. You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. But always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that adults take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if they: are not often outdoors – for example, if they’re frail or housebound are in an institution like a care home, usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors. If you have dark skin – for example you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background – you may also not make enough vitamin D from sunlight.
Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods. Sources include: oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolks, fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals. Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements. In the UK, cows’ milk is generally not a good source of vitamin D because it is not fortified, as it is in some other countries.
There have been some reports about vitamin D reducing the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19). But there is currently not enough evidence to support taking vitamin D solely to prevent or treat COVID-19.
Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to psoriasis. While a deficiency doesn’t seem to cause psoriasis outright, it may impair the body’s ability to keep the skin healthy. This may increase flares. When taken in healthy doses, vitamin D can help treat psoriasis. Vitamin D deficiencies do not seem to cause inflammatory skin diseases outright, but may impair the body’s ability to keep the skin healthy.