Overview of calcium deficiency
Calcium is a vital mineral. Your body uses it to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also needed for your heart and other muscles to function properly. When you don’t get enough calcium, you increase your risk of developing disorders like:
- Calcium deficiency disease (hypocalcemia)
Children who don’t get enough calcium may not grow to their full potential height as adults.
You should consume the recommended amount of calcium per day through the food you eat, supplements, or vitamins.
Symptoms of calcium deficiency
Early-stage calcium deficiency may not cause any symptoms. However, symptoms will develop as the condition progresses.
Severe symptoms of hypocalcemia include:
- Confusion or memory loss
- Muscle spasms
- Numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, and face
- Muscle cramps
- Weak and brittle nails
- Easy fracturing of the bones
Calcium deficiencies can affect all parts of the body, resulting in weak nails, slower hair growth, and fragile, thin skin.
Calcium also plays an important role in both neurotransmitter release and muscle contractions. So, calcium deficiencies can bring on seizures in otherwise healthy people.
If you start experiencing neurological symptoms like memory loss, numbness and tingling, hallucinations, or seizures, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Causes of calcium deficiency
Many people are at an increased risk of calcium deficiency as they age. This deficiency may be due to a variety of factors, including:
- Poor calcium intake over a long period of time, especially in childhood.
- Medications that may decrease calcium absorption.
- Dietary intolerance to foods rich in calcium.
- Hormonal changes, especially in women.
- Certain genetic factors
It’s important to ensure proper calcium intake at all ages.
Diagnosis of calcium deficiency
Contact your doctor if you have symptoms of this deficiency disease. They’ll review your medical history and ask you about family history of calcium deficiency and osteoporosis.
If your doctor suspects calcium deficiency, they’ll take a blood sample to check your blood calcium level. Your doctor will measure your total calcium level, your albumin level, and your ionized or “free” calcium level. Albumin is a protein that binds to calcium and transports it through the blood. Sustained low calcium levels in your blood may confirm a diagnosis of calcium deficiency disease.
Normal calcium levels for adults can range from 8.8 to 10.4 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). You may be at risk for calcium deficiency disease if your calcium level is below 8.8 mg/dL. Children and teens typically have higher blood calcium levels than adults.
Treatment for calcium deficiency
It is usually easy to treat. It typically involves adding more calcium to your diet.
Do not self-treat by taking a lot of calcium supplements. Taking more than the recommended dose without your doctor’s approval can lead to serious issues like kidney stones.
Commonly recommended calcium supplements include:
- Calcium carbonate, which is the least expensive and has the most elemental calcium.
- Calcium citrate, which is the most easily absorbed.
- Calcium phosphate, which is also easily absorbed and doesn’t cause constipation.
Calcium supplements are available in liquid, tablet, and chewable forms.
it’s important to note that some medications could interact negatively with calcium supplements. These medications include:
- Blood pressure beta-blockers like atenolol, which may decrease calcium absorption if taken within two hours of taking calcium supplements.
- Antacids containing aluminium, which may increase blood levels of aluminium.
- Cholesterol-lowering bile acid sequestrants such as colestipol, which may decrease calcium absorption and increase the loss of calcium in the urine.
- Estrogen medications, which can contribute to an increase in calcium blood levels.
- Digoxin, as high calcium levels can increase digoxin toxicity.
- Diuretics, which can either increase calcium levels (hydrochlorothiazide) or decrease calcium levels in the blood (furosemide).
- Certain antibiotics such as fluoroquinolones and tetracyclines, whose absorption can be decreased by calcium supplements.
Complications from calcium deficiency disease include eye damage, an abnormal heartbeat, and osteoporosis.
Complications from osteoporosis include:
- Spinal fractures or other bone fractures.
- Difficulty walking
If left untreated, calcium deficiency disease could eventually be fatal.
You can prevent this deficiency disease by including calcium in your diet every day.
Be aware that foods high in calcium, such as dairy products, can also be high in saturated fat and trans fat. Choose low-fat or fat-free options to reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol and heart disease.