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Rickets is the classic vitamin D deficiency disease. Rickets is a disease primarily found in children, in which their bones remain soft. In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, which results in weak bones. Low levels of vitamin D also contribute to osteoporosis, the brittle-bone disease that can affect adults, particularly women, in their later years.
There is ongoing research into whether vitamin D plays a role in preventing a number of chronic diseases, including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and colon, prostate and breast cancers. Further research will determine whether getting enough vitamin D can actually help prevent these chronic diseases.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to several autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin D helps the body build bone and regulates the body's immune responses. It may also have a role in cancer, metabolic syndrome, immune disorders and dementia.
Low vitamin D levels are linked to a host of health problems. In this WisePatient video, Carlos Rios, MD, an internist at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, says weak bones from osteoporosis is just the beginning.
Vitamin D deficiency results in rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Rickets and osteomalacia are characterized by an inability to calcify the bone matrix. This results in softening of the skull bones, bowing of legs, spinal curvature, and increased joint size. Once common, these diseases are now extremely rare. Vitamin D is best known for its ability to stimulate the absorption of calcium.
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