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

20 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.

    • If your doctor determined that you have a vitamin D deficiency, he/she may opt to write a prescription for a really high dose of vitamin D – such as the prescription you were given by your doctor – to try and correct the deficiency.

  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…..

  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??????

  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.

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