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

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

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

  1. I am 40 and am at 8 vitamin d deficiencyand felt like hell with all sort of neck back head joint pain. Can any body tell me what u felt after 3 moths of taking vitamin supplement d did u feel better. All these pain went away or still existing. Because I have started my first dose

  2. I noticed a huge change in first week of intense treatment (I was 4.2 & 45). It was the standard 50,000 for first 6 weeks. I’m now supposed to take 4,000/day (I frequently take 6,000 instead ?). My pain was in lower back & right arm. Arm pain gone first week, back pain more stubborn.

  3. BTW, last checked, mine was only at 35 — after a year of treatment. I’m backing down to prescribed doses. I hope this is what helps you feel better!

  4. I am 29 yrs and my vit d3 is 3 . I m suffering from hevy back pain ,neck pain & legs. I cant walk properly. My Vit b12 also deficient. So wt i can do? Please help me.

    • What does your doctor recommend?

      I know that most resources say that 15 minutes of being in the sun can provide you with your daily dose of vitamin D, but that is not always the case. If you live in northern states, as I do, you could spend all day out in the sun in your shirt sleeves and shorts, November through March (yes you would be very cold) and you would not get any or very limited vitamin D. This is due to the angle of the sun and our shortened days.

      And if its summer and you’re coated with sunscreen to prevent sun burn – which of course you should do, then you’re not getting any vitamin D either. I recommend following the instructions given you by your doctor, trying to get out in the sun every day for 15 minutes without sunscreen, looking for foods that contain vitamin D, and avoiding foods such as sodas and fast food which would deplete your vitamin stores.

      And of course, follow the advice of your doctor. If you do not currently have a doctor, then definitely schedule an appointment and start seeing one.

  5. My doctor said My vitamin D was low and that it was at 30 but normal levels should be anywhere from 50-100 I’m confused because I have looked it up and it said that my levels were normal should I be concerned or continue to take it. My doseage is 1.25 mg (ERGOCAL 50000 UNT) once a week and take over the counter Vitamin D3 5,000 daily. I do suffer from muscle weakness and I’m severely tired all the time. I’m just worried that to much for my body all at once. Should I be concerned or get a second opinion?

  6. I’ve been diagnosed with low vitamin d – 8ng/ml – I’m in pain all over my body, depression, tingling, cold, fatigue. I’ve been progressively getting worse so I went for a physical. doctor was shocked at my D level, prescribed 50,000 iu once weekly and told me we may need to do twice weekly. How long until I feel better? It’s my first week on the supplement and the pain and fatigue is actually worse. I need a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you, Brenda

  7. My level was also an 8 and my dr prescribed the vitamin d2 @50k ui once a week for 12 weeks. I asked him if I could take 3k ui of d2 daily and still get results and he said yes. I’m just afraid to take that high of an amount.

    • Hello my name is Janie how did you do with over the counter enstead of taking 50,000 were able to get up? Please tell me how u did it im concern taking the 50,000 too! Thank you! Janie

  8. My Vitamin D level is 35. Today my doctor prescribed 1000iu each day. Is that sufficient.? I don’t experience any pain as some others have posted. But I do feel depressed. It is also a long winter here in Toronto.

  9. My vitamin d level is an 18. I have been taking 50,000 prescribed once a week for years now. I am so tired all of the time. I can sleep day and night. I also have Celiac disease. Do you think I may need to have shots or infusions to even get any in my system. The reason I ask is I had to have iron infusion because my body was so low I had to have blood transfusion because my blood count was down to a 6. That’s when they discovered I had celiac and it caused me to be extremely anemic.

  10. Just want to learn more about vitamin d deficiency and what are the best vitamin you should be taken daily thank you.

  11. My Vitamin D is 8 and the doctor has prescribed me 10000 IU for the first 3 months followed by 5000 IU daily post 3 months.I am 25 year’s old i also have Iron deficiency for which i need to take 325 mg of Ferrous Sulfate 3-4 times a week. i weigh 112 LBS so i am wondering if this dose of Vitamin D is too much for me. I did have sever back pain past couple of weeks which turned out to be grade 1 spondylolisthesis l5-s1 with pars defect on both sides. I wonder if this could be due to Vitamin D deficiency.

    • Follow your doctors orders. It takes a while to boost your numbers — but it’s well worth it!

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