Vitamin D deficiency symptoms may develop if a person’s body isn’t creating enough of the vitamin. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors, and during late March to the end of September this is easiest to gain. But between October and early March it can be more difficult to get enough vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for regulating key nutrients in the body, calcium and phosphate.
Calcium and phosphate are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy, so if a person lacks the vitamin they can be at increased risk of problems with their bones.
Children deficient in vitamin D can be at increased risk of developing rickets, a condition that causes pain and soft and weak bones.
Adults can be at increased risk of developing bone pain caused by osteomalacia.
But complications can be avoided by spotting the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
One symptom that may develop, signalling the condition, is dry eyes.
Research published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, showed vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with dry eyes.
There are four signs of dry eyes you should be wary of, according to the NHS.
- Feelings of dryness, grittiness or soreness that get worse throughout the day
- Burning and red eyes
- Eyelids that stick together when you wake up
- Temporarily blurred vision, which usually improves when you blink
The health body adds: “Some people may also have episodes of watering eyes, which can occur if the eye tries to relieve the irritation by producing more tears.”
According to the researchers of the study, vitamin D plays a role in dry eyes due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
They added vitamin D may help prevent dry eyes by inducing cathelicidin, an anti-microbial protein that can help heal eye wounds.
The study involved 50 women who were deficient in vitamin D and 48 women sufficient in vitamin D.
Only pre-menopausal women took part in the study, as postmenopausal hormonal changes have been found to be associated with dry eye.
Summarising the findings of the study, the researchers said: “To our knowledge, our study is the first to demonstrate the association between dry eye and clinical parameters of hypovitaminosis D such a fatigue, functional impairment and pain.”
They added: “We are of the opinion that vitamin D plays a protective role in the development of dry eye, probably by enhancing tear film parameters and reducing ocular surface inflammation…vitamin D supplementation may be useful for dry eye symptoms, including ocular discomfort, soreness, redness, ocular fatigue, sensitivity to light and blurred vision.”
Other symptoms of vitamin D deficiency
Other signs of the condition are outlined by Bupa. They include:
- Muscle ache
- Poor bone and tooth health
- Constant colds
A certain sign on a person’s head can also signal the condition.
People at risk of vitamin D deficiency
Certain groups of people risk not getting enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure.
According to the Department of Health, these groups include people that:
- Aren’t often outdoors – for example a person who is frail or housebound
- Are in an institution like a care home
- Usually wear clothes that cover up most of the skin when outdoors
- Have dark skin – for example people with an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background
How to avoid vitamin D deficiency
A small number of foods contain some vitamin D, so it may be worth including these in your diet during the autumn and winter months.
The NHS says food sources include:
- Oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods – such as most fat spread and some breakfast cereals
But it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, so people should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms.
The NHS advises: “You can buy vitamin D supplements or vitamin drops containing vitamin D (for under 5s) at most pharmacies and supermarkets.”