With so many of us working from home over the past 18 months, concerns have been raised about a potential rise in vitamin D deficiency and the impact this could have on our health.
At a time when we’re paying closer attention our wellbeing and looking for ways to optimise our health, it’s worth being aware of the signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency and what this could mean for you.
What is vitamin D and why is it important?
Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, is produced by then body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It also occurs naturally in some foods including certain fish, fish liver oil and egg yolks, as well as fortified grains and dairy.
Vitamin D is essential for bone health, helping your body absorb calcium from your diet. Commonly, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a condition called rickets, where bone tissue doesn’t mineralize, leading to skeletal deformities and soft bones. However, research shows that vitamin D plays a much bigger role in preventing a whole range of other health problems.
What are the risks of Vitamin D deficiency?
If you are experiencing muscle weakness or bone pain, it could be a sign that you are deficient in vitamin D. Symptoms are often mild but even without obvious issues that may indicate deficiency, having too little vitamin D can put you at risks of other health problems, such as
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment in older adults
- Severe childhood asthma
Research also suggests that vitamin D could play a role in the prevention and treatment of other conditions including glucose intolerance, type 1 and 2 diabetes, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis.
What causes Vitamin D deficiency?
Too little sunlight
The body produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Because of this, you could be at risk of deficiency if you live in certain parts of the world with reduced sunlight, wear long robes or head coverings, or work in a job that prevents exposure to the sun. Vitamin D deficiency can be more prevalent during the winter months when sunlight is reduced. It’s estimated that between 50-70% of people living in the northern Europe are deficient in vitamin D by March each year.
If you follow a strict vegan diet, you could be at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency as most natural sources are found in animal products, such as fish or eggs.
Some medical conditions, including Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, and coeliac disease, can impair your intestine's ability to absorb vitamin D from your diet.
Having dark skin
The pigment melanin, which is responsible for darker skin colour, reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies have shown that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
As we age our kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, increasing the risk of vitamin D deficiency.
If you’re concerned that you might have signs of vitamin D deficiency or think that your lifestyle or living conditions might mean you are at greater risk, you may want to consider getting tested, giving you access to all the information you need to optimise your health.
We can make sure the experience is as easy, convenient, and painless as possible. By partnering with Spire Healthcare, we make the process simple and seamless by offering easy-to-book appointments at your local Spire Hospital. Here’s how it works:
Booking your blood test
After you have selected the right test for you, simply order online through our secure payment system or chat to a member of our team. Once your order is placed, you’ll receive all the information you need to arrange your convenient blood draw appointment at one of our Spire Hospital locations.
Your pathology passport – the information sent to you after you place your order – will also tell you whether you need to fast ahead of your test. Included in each request for vitamin D testing are:
- A doctor’s referral
- All phlebotomy
- All laboratory fees
- Our GP’s comments
We partner with Spire Healthcare to offer a professional phlebotomy service. This ensures that your blood samples are taken and handled correctly and that your results are processed efficiently. Our confidential blood examination for vitamin D is available at over thirty private clinics around the UK.
Unlike home testing healthcare kits, where you take the sample yourself, our trained professionals reduce the likelihood of errors such as collecting an insufficient amount of blood or accidental contamination, which could delay your test results.
At your appointment, friendly trained staff will talk to you about your test, collect the blood sample and send it off for testing at an accredited partner laboratory. All you need to do is arrive for your appointment. We’ll take care of the test, and the rest.
The time it takes to receive your results will depend on the type of test you have chosen. But your results will be sent directly to you, via email, within the time specified.
You can also choose the option of reported or unreported results. Reported results include information and comment from our GP which you may find helpful to discuss with your own consultant, or for your records.
If you would prefer to receive a paper copy of your results through the post, that can easily be arranged for you.