My doctor said that my vitamin D level is low. Is that really bad?

webmd.com

It’s well established that Vitamin D is important in the regulation of the body’s calcium levels and bone development.  If people don’t get enough, they are at risk of diseases like rickets and osteoporosis.  But researchers have more recently discovered that vitamin D receptors are found on almost all tissues of the body.  This has caused a “boom” in vitamin D research; scientists are investigating its role in everything from heart disease and diabetes to depression, cancer and the common cold. 

You get Vitamin D in two ways: by consuming it in foods or supplements, and by making it in your skin when sunlight hits it.  Vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in a lot of foods – unless you’re a really big fan of cod liver oil or mackerel, you wouldn’t get nearly enough – so many foods are fortified with it.  Almost all of the milk sold in the U.S. is fortified with Vitamin D, as are many cereals, juices and yogurts. 

This time of year in Columbus ain’t exactly the most Vitamin D friendly environment – the sun seems to head south for the winter – so it’s not unusual for people around here to have a low Vitamin D level.  But what does that really mean?  How low is too low?  And does having a low Vitamin D level increase your risk for depression, high blood pressure, the flu?  We don’t know for sure.  There’s even a lot of debate going on right now about whether or not the current cut off for a “normal” Vitamin D level is too high and that a lot of people are being told they have a deficiency when they really don’t. 

That being said, people build up the majority of their bone density during their twenties so it wouldn’t hurt to take a daily adult multi-vitamin containing around 600 IU of Vitamin D to help prevent osteoporosis later in life.  It’s also a good idea to get some regular sunlight exposure whenever you can; even if it’s cold, it’ll turn on your skin’s Vitamin D factory.  But don’t overdo it – taking too much (over 4000 IU) can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels and kidneys.  And excessive uv radiation exposure can damage your skin and put you at risk for really bad things.   

The National Institutes of Health has a great site about Vitamin D supplements, and the Mayo Clinic also provides a lot of good information.  And of course, you can always make an appointment to see us if you’re worried about your Vitamin D level.   

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

79 thoughts on “My doctor said that my vitamin D level is low. Is that really bad?

  1. My vitamin d is 11. My doctor wrote me a prescription for 50,000 iu 1 tablet 1x a week for 12 weeks. Do you think this is to much.

  2. My levels are at 9 . I’ve been feeling like really bad for a few weeks and today I found out why. My doctor wrote me the same 50,000 iu script for 12 weeks … she told me that about week 3 I should start feeling a little better I sure hope so …

  3. I’m at 10 and doctor put me on 50,000 a week for 8 weeks, then I get another blood test to see if it’s helping or not.

  4. My level is a 4.2. I had lower back & hip pain for years. August 2014 treated for carpal tunnel & they’d stated my hip pain was due to tight tendons/ligaments. Recently had experienced difficulty with stairs– I’d describe it as if my feet were weighted & they just couldn’t leave the ground. Extreme lethargy. I’d read an article on vit D & asked my dermatologist for a test. GP put me on 50,000 x week. Within 2 days, my carpal tunnel disappeared, as has generalized joint pain. Hips/back still problematic, but I’m only on week two! DEXA scan scheduled for next week. I can’t wait to see what else improves…..

      • I did not experience that. Mostly muscle/joint aches & lethargy. Years ago, I had long-term severe foot cramps; that started back up again when on the D (only for a few weeks while #’s improved). The feet also had tingling/burning sensation that has now diminished a bit. I’ve now accepted I HAVE to take it daily. Since then my sister & mother have been diagnosed w/extreme low levels. Has totally changed my life, and I hope you have the same success.

  5. My vitamin d level is 12 my dr put me on 50 , 000 in D2 caps 1 cap twice a week for four wk then once weekly until finish script then make appt.

  6. I was diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency last Wednesday. By Friday, I had a cold. Over the weekend, this progressed and I became very very depressed so I ate some fish (I’m a vegan – this was hard for me) On Sunday, I fainted and went to A&E, and was told I had diabetes, type 2. Even though I am not fat. This morning (Monday) I was diagnosed with angina.
    This is a warning. Eat fish, eggs, and cereal RIGHT NOW because VitD deficiency is serious. I might set up a charity – if you sufferers want to join in please do. I may not have long left.
    PS- I am only 17. Beware. GO SIT OUTSIDE IN THE SUN

  7. I just got a call from the doctor telling me my vitamin D was a 5 i be tired and lazy sometimes so im going to try these pills see how things go. Then i go back to the doctor to make sure my blood not low

  8. I was just told my vitamin D level is 25 and the normal is 30-100. I have osteoporosis and re last infusion 15 months ago but had no side effects. My doc prescribed 50,000 units of a med for once for 12 weeks. Is that overkill??????

    • my vitamin d level decreased..doctor increased my vitamin d to 5000 i per day….can
      I use my vitamin d pills of 1000….to 5-1000 each day to use up extra 1000 pills ??

    • I have just had a report sent from the hospital to me. All blood tests normal except that I have vit d of 23. I had these blood tests on26 th may. It is now 17 th June. Will waiting this long before writing to me be detrimental to my health? I’ve not heard from my gap, so don’t know what supplement dose I will get.

  9. My level is 9. So I started taking vit d2 1.25 mg 50,000 unit for the next 12 weeks. I wonder if this is causing my migraines. I ended up in the ER today for a very painful migraine.

    • Health.com reports the following as good sources for vitamin D:

      Sunlight, about 20-25 minutes without sunscreen.
      Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and eel.
      Canned tuna.
      Vitamin-D rich mushrooms. These are mushrooms grown in ultraviolet light to spur vitamin D production.
      Fortified milk.
      Fortified orange juice.
      Egg yolks.
      Fortified cereal.
      Beef liver.
      Cod liver oil.

  10. I was just diagnosed with vitd defiency. I have level 10 and my doctor only prescribed me 5,000 D3 a day which seems low compared to your guys dosage. Is it bc i am 17 and not older? I really want to get better as fast as I can bc this has been so awful. I started out sleeping all day, I couldn’t think and I had this awful confusion. It got so bad that whenever I would try and do anything that required thinking (like homework) it became impossible. I still have bad confusion right now and I really want it to be gone ;-;. I’ve been anemic for a while too and this is 90 times worse to me. I even think the vitd defiiency gave me high blood pressure ;-; If anyone reads this can you please let me know what your symptoms were and if anyone else had more mental symptoms than physical? I hope you all feel better!

    • Hi Jazz. Do not be perturbed. My wife has been having several such mental syptoms and she was quite in depression since a long time. Recently after a full health checkup it was found that her VitD level was seriously low i.e. less than 4.2. She used to feel irritated all the time, lacked energy and will to do anything and felt sleepy and lethargic most of the time. She even wanted to quit her job!!
      As for your dosage, I guess others have been prescribed 50000 for 1 week while you have been prescribed 35000 for 1 week. Your age could certainly be a factor I think though I am certainly not an expert on this matter. Anyhow, get well soon!!

    • My name is nakita I been sick for eight in a half years feelings the worse ever never could understand why.They keep diagnosing me with fibromyalgia but I knew I just didnt catch this all of a sudden.so I been had x rays test even mri’s done thinking it was pertaining to a neck injury a while back…I got to eliminating and remembering that I was told my vitd was off but the prescription I was given was just for a few times.it always feels like im going into spasms, cramps, aches and stiffness, like I cant reach cannot stretch properly.I started to receive these knots all over my body, head just in every bone, it could be hundreds.Headaches bad mood , dpressed. It even has gotten to the point where my facial muscles cant express properly because it feels like my muscles are numb and like im not in control.This is serious I thank God for jesus because he let me know that this is what it is and I need to start feeding my body back to vit d and longer for I can get enough. I donnot wish this on my own enemy….

  11. I dont now what mine was but doctor said I have to take 5 vitamin d tablets a day what dose that mean someone help

  12. Just found out my vit d level was 29. Doc said was just a bit low and should take 400 iu. I am not having any of the signs or symptoms I read on here. Except I am a lil depressed sometimes. I’m in my mid 50’s. I have already been taking cod liver oil and a multi-vitamin, so I thought I should be ok.

  13. My Vut D level. is 10. The have the same script of 50,000IU 1 time a week for 12 weeks. I am always in pain, depressed have a large growth on my thyroid and am always completely exhausted. I have no appetite.

    • My VitD is also at 10. Dr put me on 2000 unit daily and a different one 50,000 unit once a week for 4 weeks then once a month for 6 mo. I am on oxygen and also have large growth and many small growths on my thyroid. I ache all the time. No energy at all. Tired all the time but yet can’t sleep more than 3-4 hours. Now the dr is saying I’m on the border line of being diabetic. I sure would like to get to feeling better.

  14. my Dr. Just told me my vitamin D leval was at 18 and I need to take 5000 units a day for 3 months then drop it to 1000 units a day for the rest of my life. What a good vitamin D that isn’t like a horse pill. Also I have to be gluten free

    • I’ve just started taking ‘Basic’ brand vit D-3 400 iu. They are about the size of a regular multivitamin pill (those little red or yellow pills). Found them at Kroger.

    • I now take 4,000/day, from an over the counter pill. I prefer those which are in gel form (Sundown). I’ve gone from 4.2 to a 30 on my test, after 12 weeks of prescription 50,000/week (plus regular sun time). Made a HUGE difference in how I feel (10-15 yrs younger!). Remember, you can take too much, so keep up testing with your doctor.

    • My vitamin d level 18 I m suffering sever back pain fatigue vitamin d inj supplements taken but level increased then gradually decreases what should I do I m known case tellisemia minor hb is 8

  15. Thanks to everyone that commented i just found out mine vita d was 4 and was also put on the 50,000 iu a week and 200,000 daily pill. I got a bit worried because i am only 34; however now i see that all age groups can be affected. Calmed me down a lot.

  16. Hello everybody I just find out today that my vit level was 12 today and my doctor put me on 50,000 unit today and I have to take 1 pill a week for 6 months and I’m only 36 years old

  17. Shite……I don’t know what my level is as the nurse didn’t say but I have to go and see my doctor for results of a load of blood that was taken last week. Oh, and was told I was type 2 diabetic and there’s issues with my kidneys….. In the meantime i’ve got to take a 20,000u tablet three times a week for 8 weeks, then buy over the counter ones for another 4 months then have more bloods done…….. have been saying I could sleep at a drop of a hat for years…….recently, past four months, that has got worse, where I come home from work or say from town and within 30 mins, can be asleep, usually for 2 hours but if days off, can sleep for 10 – 14 hours……
    Doesn’t sound good……

    • Is it D2 or D3 ? D3 is much better and 2000 ui per day is not much if your levels are at 8. 50 000UI weekly is a correct dose to fix a deficiency and get more sun.

  18. Just found out my Vit D level is 7 and placed on a weekly pill not sure how much picking it up tomorrow and recheck level in 6 months. At the same time my Iron is also low. I haven’t changed my diet but have been symptomatic with exhaustion/fatigue, not sleeping well/waking up tired, headaches, muscle/bone/joint aches, and for a while thought I was getting Alzheimer’s (difficulty with thought), low blood sugars at times, weight gain. Have been having difficulty with stairs for a while now/ stiffness. Now I know why!!! I am concerned though why now? What has changed??? I did not realize that Vit D could did so much. Looking forward to feeling better and thinking more clearly. Right now I’m just sad.

  19. Anyone else experience hair thinning and loss with low Vitamin D? I had my Vit D tested because of hair loss and it was an 11. My doctor has yet to comment on this…

    • My hair is about 1/4 what it used to be — i wish i were exaggerating, but the estimate is from my sister. The thinning’s been over the course of 20 yrs. i’d always inquired about it w/drs, they just said heredity. (I’d always heard it happened to my grandmother, too). On the D for 9 months — first couple were a dream & hair loss was a couple strands a day! Picked up again over summer :-( However, still less than normal loss, IMO. Also, had dry spots on my lips for that entire time — they’re now plumped up again! I preach the benefits every chance I get. Hope it helps u too!

      • Just saw your response. My endo put me on 50,000 iu Vit. D 2 3x a week! A lot of other docs say this has nothimg to due with my hair loss anfld thinning. I have been on does for 1 1/2 months and no real change in hair or my low mood :(

          • D3 for me. But I’m now on over the counter since mine’s gone from 4.2 to 35. As all drs told me, hair loss has lots of causes. I got my D tested by my dermatologist who had tried to see if my cause was anemia. Had that too — iron deficiency was treated. Helped w/some lethargy & loss, but tough regimine. Again has to be monitored.

  20. I’m 14 years old and my vitamin d level is 12! I experienced leg pain, lower back,hip,shoulder pain. Am I the only one whose level is 12 at 14 years old?

  21. hi guys ive been feeling so tired could sleep anytime of the day , my whole body just aches all over , went to see my doc took bloods came back my vitamin d levels were 19 , they put me on 60,000 3 times a week , been on now 4 weeks felt ok after 3 , in my forth week feel shite again , going to get me bloods took again see if its went up

  22. I am 41 years old and just found out that my Vitamin D level is at 11 and my WBC count is up. Feeling very tired all the time, Irritability, very sleepy and might possibly be anemic. Got the test results before the Doctor, since everything is automated at my Doctors office.

    • Maybe. Bone aches and pains, especially in combination with fatigue could be a result of low vitamin D. Talk with your doctor. Explain your symptoms. When are they better, when worse. Your doctor will consider all of your symptoms with your history as well as your family history and will be better able to direct you on a path of healing.

  23. I just got my labs back for the 3rd time. I have been on 50,000 IU a week for 23 weeks now and my d3 went from 13 to 10 and now 4!!! I eat extra foods with Vit D and try to get sun. I am exhausted, have had intermittent chest pain, bone pain, joint pain. What gives?

    • There have been studies that show that Vitamin D rates decrease during the winter months. There are a lot of factors that play into this – read more in this previous post https://u.osu.edu/buckmdblog/2013/12/17/whats-up-with-vitamin-d/.

      There is also a “right” kind of vitamin D supplement to take and a “less right kind”. There is D2 (ergocalciferol) and there is D3 (cholecalciferol). The D2 version is generated by exposing foods to ultraviolet light. D3 provides benefits similar to what you would receive from sunlight and so it the more natural form. According to Medscape.com, D3 is more effective at raising and maintaining the vitamin D blood test.

      Check out the vitamin D that you are taking. Do some research on Vitamin D and absorption. Make a list of what you’re eating, what you’re taking, how much time exactly you are spending in the sun, how much of your skin is exposed when you do so and if you’re wearing sunscreen. Then make an appointment with your doctor. Talk to him/her about how you’re feeling, what you’re doing, and your concerns.

  24. For the last 7 months , ive had terrible bone pain and joint pain .. and extremely tired.
    my oncologist just told me my vitamin d level was 9.
    I thought i was going crazy

  25. Hi is anyone feeling any better I have a 11 result on my blood test I have been given 5x 800iu tablets a day for 10 weeks I’m on week 3 and still feel exhausted have a cold for months and a sinus infection now so on antibiotics to I have to children 7 months and 3 years and work evenings weekends full time I feel dizzy off balance confused also on anti anxiety tablets at the moment to will this ever get better ? So drained when I was pregnant last summer I hardly went out as had bad hip pain and high fluid so was short of breath all the time

  26. It’s made a huge difference for me. I used to feel exhausted from my bones & joints aching. My energy & focus has improved. Unfortunately, i gained 10 lbs these last 11 months. My theory/analogy: i used more gas while driving w/the parking brake on. I hope things improve for you.

  27. I Went Yesterday To My Doctor Office To Give Me The Blood Results Of Everything He Said Everything Else Was Normal And Good But Only My Vitamin D Is Low It Was Is On 8 He Put Me On Vit D 50,000 iu D2 Caps I Got Take 1 Caps Once A Week For 4 Weeks

  28. Hi I was told my vitamin d level was low dr put me on 50,000 2x a week for 8 weeks, I also do not have a spleen with chronic fatigue. Contracted mono as well, have been totally exhausted for 6 moths do to all of this I’m a lot older 58. Any other suggestions to he me feel better”?…

  29. I was having severe mental depression then outbursts, couldn’t remember or focus and either slept 2 or 3 days straight and could also be awake for 2 or 3 days straight. I was in severe pain, also. I have had crohn’s disease for many years and also have rheumatoid arthritis and heart problems. I am only 63 and I felt like I wanted to die. My rheumatologist tested me and my vitamin d level was less than 5. I have been put on d3 50,000iu x 2 weekly and 50,000 d2 once weekly. I have been told I will have to stay on a d regimen for the rest of my life but maybe can reduce the amount some. Why don’t more doctors test for d deficiencies before plying you with unnecessary pills for things they don’t help? I had never heard of any of the things that a vitamin d deficiency can cause a person to experience. Thank God I had a good doctor that thought out of the box!

  30. I’m 67 and my vit D level is 14. My Dr said to take 4000 IU once a day. I wonder why she didn’t give me a script like everyone else?

  31. I took a blood test because my parents were worried (my grades were dropping in school because I didn’t want to do anything) and my D2 came back as <4 I'm just assuming it can't be accurately tested lower than that but all my doctor did was suggest that I should take 2,000 ui a day which i'm confused about because I've read about so many of you that are higher than that getting prescribed almost quadruple the amount so should i ask my doctor if he's sure I don't need more or possibly consult a different doctor? I'm only 16 though if age matters at all.

  32. Hi guys.. Happy to have found this thread! I have been feeking really terrible for the past 6 months. Extreme dizziness, I could barely stand. Headaches resembling migraine. Urge to drink water like allll the time. I thought i was dying or something, even imagined myself on the death bed, buh!
    Btw im a 26 yrs old female. Got my reports today, vitamin D level 6, got 1000 mg (25000 IU im guessing) daily for 3 months. Just took the first dose and feeling better already, believe me. However, just very confused about the dizzy part.. Did someone else feel similar too?

  33. My vit D level is 18 and my doc prescribed 1 pill (50,000 units) a week for 8weeks then a blood retest. I am 61 yr old female. my symptoms are fatigue and I feel like I’m getting a cold every week or so. It seems there is great variation in the amount of D supplement people are taking. Makes me wonder how docs come up with the amount they choose for each patient.

  34. Mine was recently tested in the low 20s. I sit outside all summer and get brown as a nut. This was in February. I was told to take 5000iu per day. I have several autoimmune diseases
    One is a common one that no one knows of called Ankylosing Spondylitis. It is a rheumatic type of arthritis that causes your large joints to fuse and make new bone growth. It seems common to show up in some countries that have low vitamin D issues. I’m in America where we have more access to fortified foods. I was shocked mine was so low.

  35. My vitamin D level is at 4, I’ve been aching for months & tired & have dry skin patches, I have a problem with my spine & neck and I’m on lots of medication, but the aches & pains were just getting so bad my doctor ran a wide range of blood tests, I’ve been put on 50,000 iu per week for 8 weeks, then have another blood test I only got them today & took my first tablet, but within a hour of taking it I just felt sick!!

  36. Hello All, 28 year old Female with Joint pain, muscle pain, Migraines, sleep problems, problems focusing, and other pain issues. Vitamin D level of 19. I am on 5,000 iu/day.
    Starting to feel slightly better. Does anyone use a S.A.D. Light? Does it work?

  37. I am 45 and my vitamin D was 18. I received a letter in the mail with my routine blood work results suggesting 1000-2000 a day but I have a friend that had a 19 and was put on 50,000, different Doctor. I’m not really sure if my doctor is more conservative or pays less attention because I’ve been to her for back and leg pain more than once. I was prescribed melaxicam and recommended physical therapist and referral to another doctor. I saw a podiatrist and got steroid shot in foot with no definite answer of the reason for my pain and discomfort in my leg. Went to an orthopedic who recommended a shot in my knee but found no definite answer and went to a neurologist for my back who also suggested steroid injections but couldn’t explain my leg pain. I have been having mini panic attacks because no one can find anything wrong with me and so I started reading. It seems to make so much sense now for no physical findings to my pain but why didn’t my family doctor figure this out before me? It’s a little unsettling.

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