Vitamin D deficiency in children and what does it lead to?
Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency in children and what does it lead to?

Written by Apurva Surve
Published: October 4, 2023

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Apurva Surve is a consulting sports nutritionist and has more than 11 years of experience assisting fitness enthusiasts and athletes in achieving nutrition and performance goals. She has a bachelor's and master's degree in food science and nutrition, as well as an International Olympic Committee Post Graduate Diploma in Sports Nutrition.

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Table of Contents
arrow-right Why would a child have low Vitamin D?
arrow-right Conclusion

There has been a growing concern about the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency among children in recent years. In 2022, a study in India found that 58% of children and adolescents had a low vitamin D level. Insufficient “sunshine vitamin”, as it’s popularly known, in children may lead to rickets and calcium deficiency, causing deformities and heart problems. And therefore, as parents, we have just one question on our minds – what causes Vitamin D deficiency in a child? 

This article explains the risk factors, symptoms and impact of Vitamin D deficiency in children and teenagers. If you’re wondering, where can I get Vitamin D? And what are symptoms of vitamin deficiency? Then this article is the right guide for you.

Why would a child have low Vitamin D?

Following a blood Vitamin D level test, most parents wonder, “Why is my child low on Vitamin D?” So, let’s first figure out what causes Vitamin D deficiency in children.

Low Vitamin D levels in kids often result from limited or no sunlight exposure, a poor and unbalanced diet, no or low intake of Vitamin D-fortified foods, and a lack of knowledge about Vitamin D supplementation.

What are the symptoms in teenagers? Are they different for boys and girls?

Vitamin D deficiency may go unnoticed in teenagers. Although it is asymptomatic, the deficiency can manifest as pain in weight-bearing joints, the back, the thighs, or the calves. These are some of the signs of Vitamin D deficiency. As a result, walking or climbing stairs, getting up from a squat position or running may get hard to perform. It may also cause muscle cramps. The pain is in the same place on both sides of the body. The affected bones are also sensitive. Other Vitamin D deficiency symptoms in children include facial twitches and feet and leg spasms. These are symptoms of a lack of Vitamin D. If the deficiency is severe and lasts long, it can cause vertebral compression fractures and fractures in the long bones. This is an example of what severe Vitamin D deficiency can cause.

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Although the symptoms are common in teen boys and girls, few studies show that polycystic ovarian syndrome has links with low Vitamin D levels in teenage girls, but there isn’t enough evidence to say for sure.  

Who is most at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency can occur at any age. But the following factors can increase the risk of Vitamin D deficiency in children and teenagers: 

  • who live at higher latitudes 
  • who have limited sunlight exposure 
  • who have poor dietary habits and consume junk food frequently

Low levels of vitamin D cause diseases such as severe liver or kidney failure or malabsorption of fat. These are some examples of what Vitamin D deficiency leads to. Children on anti-epileptic medication have trouble metabolising Vitamin D, leading to low levels of this essential nutrient. Last, genetic factors may also increase the risk of deficiency in kids. 

What does Vitamin D deficiency lead to? How does it impact kids?

Rickets, one of the most common Vitamin D deficiency diseases, causes growth abnormalities and joint deformities. This is a classic result of Vitamin D deficiency. It’s most likely to affect babies and young children aged 6 to 23 months and adolescents aged 12 to 15 years. It’s a condition in which the bones don’t harden or become mineralised before the epiphyseal plates close. Epiphyseal plates, also called growth plates, are pieces of cartilage at the ends of long bones in children and teens.

Children can have skeletal deformities like bow legs, knock knees, and rachitic rosary. Muscle weakness, seizures, tetany, and cardiomyopathy are also signs of Vitamin D deficiency. Always be vigilant about these symptoms of lack of Vitamin D.


If Vitamin D deficiency in children persists for weeks or months, it may result in stunted growth. Kids who don’t get enough calcium and Vitamin D in their childhood are at increased risk of osteoporosis. Regular blood tests and screenings can detect vitamin deficiencies and other health conditions in your child at an early stage, letting parents take appropriate preventative measures. These tests can help in determining what is the normal Vitamin D level in blood.

Disclaimer: This information is not to be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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