Contributed by- Dr. Snehal Singh
Diseases Caused By Vitamin Deficiency
As per recent data published in TOI, the one health condition that affects most Indians is nutritional deficiencies of various kinds, like proteins, vitamins, iron and others. Over 60 crore or about 46% of Indian population suffers from nutritional deficiencies*. This means that every 1 in 2 Indian is suffering from one or the other nutritional deficiency. This a definitely an eyeopener! Lethargy, exhaustion, weakness, inability to concentrate are some of the common and preliminary symptoms. The worst part is that the signs of most of the nutritional deficiencies are often ignored, either due to ignorance or negligence. Whatever, be the reason behind the affliction, the consequences of the same on health is far reaching. In this article, we will concentrate on the health risks that vitamin deficiencies can cause.
Some people may question the role of vitamins in health, but the truth is that vitamins are indeed very important. Vitamins are one of the essential nutrients that your body needs for proper functioning. However, sometimes, your body may not have sufficient vitamins, which can lead to many health problems. This makes the knowledge of vitamins and their deficiency diseases mandatory to be able to lead a healthy life.
Vitamins can broadly be divided into two categories: the water soluble ones, which comprise vitamin B-complex and vitamin C and the fat soluble ones: vitamins D, A, E and K. If your body does not have these vitamins in the required amount, you may end up having deficiency of that particular vitamin.
The diseases caused by deficiency of vitamins can sometimes be quite troublesome. Simple blood tests can help you detect your vitamin levels and if you are deficient in any of those, you can seek appropriate treatment.
Here is a list of vitamin deficiency diseases and their symptoms
Deficiency of vitamin A
Vitamin A deficiency can affect your immunity and cause night blindness. Insufficient vitamin A affects the production of photoreceptor rhodopsin, which results in difficulty in adaptation in the dark. This is also called night blindness, as the person is unable to see properly in the dark or at night. Vitamin A deficiency also causes dryness of eyes and skin.
Vitamin D is also called the sunshine vitamin, as it is produced after getting exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency is the most common in the list of vitamin deficiency diseases. It can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. It also causes softening of bones, which results in fractures and bone deformities. Vitamin D deficiency can also cause bone and joint pain, bending of bones, muscle weakness and difficulty in walking. Check your vitamin D levels and prevent joint and other health problems.
Vitamin K deficiency
Deficiency of vitamin K can affect the blood clotting mechanism and increase the risk of uncontrolled bleeding. It can also be presented in the form of bruising under the skin. However, it is more commonly seen in new-borns and is very rare in adults. People who over indulge in alcohol or bulimia may be at greater risk.
Deficiency of vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Beri beri is a condition that occurs due to vitamin B1 deficiency, which mainly affects the heart, brain and the nerves. The main symptoms of beriberi include depression, confusion, tingling and numbness in hands and feet, breathing difficulties and problems in speech and co-ordination. It is often aggravated by excessive intake of alcohol in people who are deficient in vitamin B1.
Deficiency of vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 deficiency can increase the risk of Ariboflavinosis. It is characterised by a swollen tongue, sore throat, cracking of skin at the corners of mouth, skin eruptions and itching. Some people may also experience weakness and anaemia, which can further cause more trouble.
Deficiency of vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Deficiency of vitamin B3 can cause a condition called pellagra. The common symptoms include sore spots in mouth, red, swollen tongue and red patches on face, neck and limbs.
Vitamin B12 is obtained from animal food. While vegetarians are at greater risk of vitamin B12 deficiency it can affect anyone. People who have been taking antacids for a long time, may be at risk too, as the natural gut environment is affected. The symptoms of vitamin B 12 deficiency include fatigue, balance and co-ordination problems, altered sensation of touch, burning or tingling sensation in hands and feet, memory loss and mouth ulcers. It is easy to check your vitamin B12 levels with a blood test and taking necessary supplements, as advised by a doctor.
Deficiency of vitamin C
Scurvy is known to be caused by deficiency of vitamin C. Vitamin C is important for skin and bone health. It helps maintain healthy gums and teeth. Scurvy affects all these tissues. Symptoms include gum disease, swollen and bleeding gums, slow wound healing, bruising of your skin, joint pains and weakness. Vitamin C plays an important role in building a strong immune system. People with low immunity levels often fall prey to cold, cough and seasonal diseases.
Other than these, the water-soluble vitamin deficiency diseases also include
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin) deficiency – The symptoms of biotin deficiency include anaemia, hair loss and rashes on skin. Some may also feel drowsiness, depression and hallucinations.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) deficiency– Paraesthesia or sensation of ‘pins and needles in hands and feet’ or burning can occur due to vitamin B5 deficiency. It can also present with weakness, depression, irritability, insomnia and gastric or respiratory disturbances.
The good news is that this is a completely ‘curable’ condition because just a better diet would eliminate most of it. One may get the required dose of these vitamins and minerals from our daily diet. Hence it is necessary to plan healthy, balanced meals that provide you with all vitamins and minerals. However, some vitamin deficiencies are best treated with additional nutritional supplement.
In case you can identify with any of the above symptoms or signs, get tested for vitamin deficiencies and protect your health. Timely investigations and medical advice can prevent many health complications. A vitamin rich diet and required supplements can help you overcome most of these diseases and symptoms, but should be taken only as advised by your doctor.
(*Source : TOI, 2/10/17)