Vitamin D: questions to expect from patients

Despite the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency - every winter, between 30 and 40% of the general population will have low vitamin D levels1 - its symptoms, which can include fatigue, pain and low mood, and the relative lack of awareness surrounding its causes, can be distressing for patients and prompt a range of questions.

What questions do patients ask about vitamin D?

A 2019 Fultium-D3 study7 found that typically, patients are concerned with the treatment that will be required to increase their vitamin D levels and whether a change in their diet can have an impact on their diagnosis. Frequently asked questions also include those relating to the causes of vitamin D deficiency and the relationship between their deficiency and other symptoms, particularly bone pain, muscle aches and fatigue.

Treatment

Questions relating to the treatment of vitamin D deficiency, and the different treatment options that exist, are among those most frequently asked by patients. Examples of typical questions on this topic include:

  • What treatment do I need?

  • What are all of the options?

  • How long do I need to take this treatment for?

  • Is the treatment safe?

  • Are there side effects?

Should the patient be vitamin D deficient, as well as giving specific advice on the correction of their vitamin D levels, including the dosing strategy and any follow-up testing that may comprise their treatment plan, it may also be useful to advise patients on the things they can do to help maintain healthy vitamin D levels once their vitamin D levels are replete (Public Health England advises that adults and children over 12 months should supplement their intake with a daily supplement of at least 10 micrograms of vitamin D)2 and direct them towards resources containing further vitamin D lifestyle advice.

Diet

As well as treatment, GPs reported7 a significant number of questions from patients relating to diet. Here, patients could be encouraged to increase their dietary intake of both vitamin D and calcium and directed towards helpful resources such as The British Dietetic Association’s fact sheet on vitamin D3. Where relevant, weight loss may be advised (particularly for patients with BMIs above 30), as being overweight can be a risk factor for deficiency as vitamin D is sequestered in adipose tissue and so becomes less bioavailable when there is a greater percentage of body fat.4,5

Causes and symptoms

Other vitamin D questions from patients related to the causes and symptoms of their deficiency and the relationship between low vitamin D and other issues. Examples here include the following:

 

  • Why do I have vitamin D deficiency?

  • Does this cause my bone pain/muscle aches?

  • Does this cause my fatigue?

  • What are all of the symptoms and causes?

  • Is it related to other illnesses or health concerns I have?

Again, it could be useful to advise patients that when vitamin D levels are very low, symptoms can include tiredness, weakness, muscle and bone pain6, as well as talking them through some of the causes of vitamin D deficiency and lifestyle advice they can follow to help keep their levels healthy.

Job Code: FUL-519b Date of Preparation: June 2020