We’ve all heard about vitamin D since we were young. It’s why our parents told us we needed to get out of the house and get some sunshine. It’s also why they made sure we drank plenty of milk and claimed that it would help us grow big and strong. Vitamin D is essential for many of our body’s functions, which is why it’s important to take a vitamin D test regularly.
What exactly is the purpose of this test? We’ll answer that question in this article. We’ll also consider some benefits of routine vitamin D testing and how you can screen your levels easily.
The purpose of a vitamin D test
Vitamin D — also known as “the sunshine vitamin” or calciferol — is a hormone and fat-soluble vitamin produced by your body when the sun’s ultraviolet rays strike your skin. It can also be naturally present in some foods or added to your diet through dietary supplements.
Why is it so important? Vitamin D helps your body absorb and maintain good levels of minerals like phosphorous and calcium, strengthens your bones and teeth, and supports your nerves, muscles, and immune system.
So it’s important to test your vitamin D levels regularly to make sure you have enough in your body. A vitamin D test accomplishes several purposes, including:
- Identifying your vitamin D levels
- Determining if you have vitamin D deficiency or toxicity
- Monitoring your health condition if you have Crohn’s disease or cystic fibrosis
- Identifying bone issues
Identify levels of vitamin D
A vitamin D level test determines whether you have enough vitamin D in your body to support your basic bodily functions. There are two main types of vitamin D that it measures.
25-Hydroxyvitamin D — also known as 25(OH)D — is the form of vitamin D that’s converted in the liver.
Most tests measure how much 25-hydroxyvitamin D is in your blood to test your vitamin D levels. Since this is the major form of vitamin D found in the bloodstream, it’s considered the most accurate way to measure the amount of vitamin D in your body.
1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D — also known as the hormone called active vitamin D — is the form of vitamin D that’s converted in the kidneys.
This type of vitamin D is not generally used to measure vitamin D levels. But it may be measured in patients with kidney problems or abnormal calcium levels.
A low level of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin is often one of the earliest changes to occur in people with early kidney failure. You may have a high level if you have a disease that causes you to produce it outside of the kidneys or have excess parathyroid hormone.
Look for vitamin D deficiency or vitamin D toxicity
Another purpose of these screenings is to test for vitamin D deficiency or toxicity.
Vitamin D deficiency
Just as it sounds, vitamin D deficiency is when you don’t have enough vitamin D in your body. It can increase your risk of some immune diseases, cancers, and heart diseases. The American Society for Radiation Oncology even found that more than 75% of people with various cancers have insufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood.
Vitamin D deficiency can also cause a host of negative symptoms, like:
- Abnormal bone development
- Bone weakness and softness
- Muscle cramps or weakness
- Bone pain
- Dental abnormalities
- Bone deformity
Vitamin D toxicity
On the other hand, vitamin D toxicity is when you have too much vitamin D in your blood. This happens when you take too much vitamin D in supplemental form, not from dietary intake or excessive sun exposure.
Excess vitamin D may cause your body to reabsorb calcium from the bones into the blood and absorb more calcium from food. You’ll eventually develop hypercalcemia — a condition where you have too much calcium in your blood. This can cause damage to your internal organs, especially the blood vessels and kidneys.
Hypercalcemia from vitamin D toxicity has its own set of symptoms, including:
- Decreased appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bone pain
- Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms)
- Kidney problems
- Excessive thirst
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent urination
If you have any of the above symptoms, vitamin D testing may be included in the panel of tests that your doctor prescribes.
Monitor those with conditions such as Crohn’s disease or cystic fibrosis
Vitamin D tests can also be used to monitor the health condition of people with chronic diseases like Crohn’s disease or cystic fibrosis.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease affecting the gastrointestinal tract, especially the colon and the small intestine. It causes painful, sometimes debilitating symptoms and may lead to life-threatening complications.
Cystic fibrosis is a chronic genetic disease affecting the cells that produce sweat, mucus, and digestive juices. It causes these natural bodily secretions to become thick and sticky, plugging up ducts, tubes, and passageways in your body, especially in the pancreas and lungs.
Both conditions interfere with fat absorption. Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s absorbed from the intestine like a fat, patients with these diseases often experience vitamin D deficiency. Measuring vitamin D levels can help them monitor their health and identify the severity of their disease.
Vitamin D supplementation has also been proven to improve the symptoms of people with these diseases. So testing can also show how much vitamin D they need to take to improve their symptoms.
Identify bone malformation, bone density, or bone disorders
Vitamin D has a direct effect on your bone health. You need it to produce the cells that help healthy bones grow and remodel.
A lack of vitamin D can cause various bone issues, such as:
- Osteomalacia, or soft bones
- Osteoporosis, or low bone density resulting in brittle and fragile bones
- Rickets, a problem with bone growth in children that causes soft, weak bones
- Bone cancer
- Bone malformation
If you’re experiencing any issues with your bones or bone development, your doctor may prescribe a vitamin D test to identify the cause.
What are the benefits of routine vitamin D testing?
Routine vitamin D testing has several benefits that help you to enjoy the best quality of life possible.
Maintenance of adequate levels
The first benefit of vitamin D tests is that they help you monitor and maintain adequate levels of vitamin D.
Health care professionals measure vitamin D ranges as nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Most doctors consider a normal range of vitamin D in adults and children to be anywhere from 20 ng/ml to 60 ng/ml, though adults can have up to 125 ng/ml in their blood before it’s considered excessive.
What about vitamin D from diet or supplements?
Supplemental and dietary vitamin D is measured in micrograms (mcg) or international units (IU). According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, the minimum amount of vitamin D you need depends on your age.
Newborns and babies up to 12 months old need a minimum amount of 10 mcg or 400 IU. People aged 1 to 70 years old need at least 15 mcg or 600 IU, while adults over 71 years old need at least 20 mcg or 800 IU due to natural loss of bone density.
A vitamin D test kit will measure these levels and give you the exact amount found in your blood. So you and your doctor can determine if your levels are adequate or excessive.
If your levels are too low, they can tell you the amount of vitamin D you need to supplement to get them within a normal range. And if they’re too high, your doctor can give you tips on how to reduce vitamin D in your body. Either way, they’ll be able to help you maintain adequate levels based on your test results.
Quicker intervention when it comes to health issues
Vitamin D deficiency and toxicity can cause a variety of health issues. In many cases, these symptoms will start to manifest quickly.
Your doctor will be able to look at the outcome of your test and use it to identify any potential health issues. Testing your vitamin D levels regularly will help you catch health problems in the early stages instead of when it’s too late.
Don’t wait until it’s too late, start screening for vitamin D today
As you can see, vitamin D truly is an essential vitamin for your body. It maintains the health of your bones, kidneys, and liver and helps your cells function as they should. Using a vitamin D test kit to measure your vitamin D has many benefits, such as helping you identify any deficiency or toxicity, identifying issues with your bones, and helping you maintain adequate levels of vitamin D and catch issues before they become severe.
Do you feel that you need to test your vitamin D levels? There’s an easy solution for you!
You can monitor your health with an at-home vitamin D test from myLAB Box. We provide reliable, fast, and discreet lab-certified at-home test kits so you can monitor your health from the comfort of your own home. Take a look at our vitamin D test and start screening your health today!