Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which is produced in our skin by the action of direct sunlight. It is critical for growth, repair and maintenance of our skeletal system, hence Vitamin D deficiency can lead to several conditions related to the musculoskeletal system like Rickets, Osteomalacia and Osteoporosis.
Individuals with limited sun exposure can have low levels of Vitamin D, commonly seen in the elderly and infirm, persons wearing veils and all persons who avoid going out in the Sun. Vitamin D production is also influenced by environmental factors like season or climate as well as individual features like age and skin colour.
In India, the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency has been conservatively estimated to be more than 70%. Some studies have cited a figure close to 90%!!
Vitamin D deficiency can present with vague clinical signs and symptoms, so it is difficult to diagnose this condition using clinical skills alone.
Therefore, screening for Vitamin D deficiency has become very necessary in view of the current epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D levels in the blood can be estimated by a simple blood test, results of which are usually available in a few hours.
Whenever Vitamin D deficiency is diagnosed, Vitamin D supplements are prescribed, which helps in correcting the deficiency and thus helps in alleviating the clinical signs and symptoms.
A word of caution here regarding Vitamin D toxicity. Over supplementation of Vitamin D can lead to Vitamin D toxicity which leads to a different set of clinical signs and symptoms.
In conclusion, Vitamin D screening should be a part of every individual’s health surveillance, and monitoring should be carried out at regular intervals to ensure that Vitamin D deficiency, or even toxicity due to over supplementation does not occur.