Nov 15, 2022
6 Things to Know About a Vitamin D Prescription
It's that time of year when most of the country sets their clocks back and says goodbye to daylight savings time. With sunsets happening earlier in the day, that means less time to be exposed to the sunshine. As a result, lower vitamin D levels.
Research has found a significant decrease in vitamin D produced by the sun during months of less sunlight. Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that promotes good bone health, a healthy immune system, and the prevention of many chronic diseases. Therefore, it's essential to ensure you're getting a sufficient amount.
While some foods and sun exposure are sources of vitamin D, your healthcare provider may recommend a supplement or prescription if you have a vitamin D deficiency.
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Understanding vitamin D deficiency
A vitamin D deficiency happens when the vitamin D levels in the body become too low. A decrease in levels can cause your bones to become thin and brittle, leading to falls, fractures, and breaks.
Researchers are finding more evidence that the lack of vitamin D can also play a part in heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, cancer, immune function, and cognitive decline.
Are you at risk for a vitamin D deficiency?
Anyone can have vitamin D deficiency. However, some people are at higher risk of not getting enough vitamin D, including:
Older adults (65 years and older)
Women who are pregnant
People with darker skin complections
People with Crohn's disease, Celiac disease, or Cystic Fibrosis
People with liver disease
People with kidney disease
People with osteoporosis
People who have had gastric bypass surgery
Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency
Signs of a vitamin D deficiency can vary from person to person. Some people don't have any symptoms at all.
Children with low vitamin D levels often experience muscle weakness and muscle pain. Although uncommon, a severe lack of vitamin D can cause rickets in children, where the bones become soft and weak.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in adults include:
Muscle weakness, muscle aches, or muscle cramps.
Changes in mood
Understanding treatment options for vitamin D deficiency
There are treatments to help reach and maintain an adequate vitamin D level in your body.
Your healthcare provider may suggest you add more foods containing vitamin D and spend more time in the sunlight. However, they may also recommend taking vitamin D supplements over the counter (OTC) or by prescription.
Why would I need a vitamin D prescription?
Many people with a vitamin D deficiency don't require prescription medication and do well on the OTC supplement. Your doctor may prescribe it if you suffer from chronic kidney or liver disease and are vitamin D deficient.
What other medical conditions may require a vitamin D prescription?
In addition to a deficiency, other medical conditions may require a vitamin D prescription, including:
What is the difference between OTC and prescription vitamin D?
Vitamin D comes from one of two sources, plant-based (D-2) and animal-derived (D-3).
Vitamins D-2 and D-3 are available OTC in pharmacies, big box, and drug stores across the country. OTC vitamin D supplements are available in 400 IU, 1,000 IU, 2,000 IU, 5,000 IU, and 10,000 IU. Since the doses are lower than the prescription version, taking them daily is recommended.
Prescription vitamin D, called Drisdol (ergocalciferol), is only as available as a D-2 and has a much higher strength of 50,000 IU. Because it's a much stronger dose, it's usually taken once a week.
Discuss with your healthcare provider to find your right vitamin D dosage.
What are the side effects of a vitamin D prescription?
Taking the proper vitamin D dosage is important, as too much can lead to kidney stones, nausea, vomiting, constipation, weight loss, irregular heart rhythm, and confusion.
Does prescription vitamin D have any adverse effects on other medications?
Both OTC and prescription vitamin D supplements may interact negatively with other medications. Consult with your doctor to review your current medication list, especially if you are taking the following:
Antacids, such as Tums, Alka-Seltzer, and Pepto-Bismol
Prednisone(Deltasone) and other corticosteroids
How can I get my vitamin D prescription without health insurance?
When your doctor prescribes vitamin D, you must fill it at a nearby or online pharmacy. There are ways to save money if you don't have health insurance or insurance that covers prescription medications.
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