Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for humans in good health as well as in disease. Its deficiency has been linked to many chronic diseases in children as well as adults. Just like adults and grown up children, infants too require vitamin D for their growth. At least 5 micrograms of vitamin D is required daily by the infant till he attains the age of 12 months. Adequate vitamin D is necessary for growth of strong bones and prevention of rickets.
A major risk of vitamin D deficiency in infants is mother having vitamin D deficiency.Exclusive breast feeding for long duration in infants may increase the risk factor. The other factors are limited sunlight exposure, infant with dark skin, certain medical conditions etc. Infants with vitamin D deficiency may have soft skull bones, bowed legs, deformity in breast bone, delay in development of essential milestones, etc.
To prevent vitamin D deficiency in infants, pregnant women should consume adequate amount of vitamin D. Infants with substantial vitamin D deficiency need supplemental vitamin D.
Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms Infants
In most infants early sign of vitamin D deficiency is difficult to evaluate.A history of inadequate intake of this vitamin by the mother is best clue. Often the infant remains asymptomatic. Earliest clue is softening of skull bone. When the fetus is in uterus the bones of skull and limbs are not joined. This allows the fetus to pass smoothly during labor. Infants with vitamin D deficiency have soft skull bones. It is found during the first few months after birth. Premature infants are particularly prone to it. The bones of skull are extremely soft to touch.
Bone deformity is common in growing infants with vitamin D deficiency. The bones of leg are curved in the form of bow. Rachitic rosary becomes prominent on the junction of ribs and breast bone. The breast bone is projected forwards appearing similar to pigeon breast. The spine appears crooked. All these symptoms are early sign of rickets.
There is delay in developmental milestones. The older infant is not able to sit on his own or needs support while crawling. The wrist and ankle joints are broad and wide.
Vitamin D deficiency in infants also produces muscle weakness. The older infant is unable to hold his head or falls soon as he tries to sit. The child remains fussy all the time due to bone pains. Severe form of vitamin D deficiency can cause hypocalcemia which in turn will lead to tetany, a type of seizure.
Causes Of Vitamin D Deficiency In Infants
Often a pregnant woman with vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of this deficiency in her infant. It can occur in dark skinned woman or woman who spends most of her time indoors or veils her body while going out in sun is at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Infants who are breastfed for a longer time and those who are not weaned after 4 months are at risk of suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Dark skin color, insufficient exposure to sunlight, infants with disorders of absorption may develop vitamin D deficiency.
Treatment Of Vitamin D Deficiency In Infants
Infants suffering from vitamin D deficiency require treatment from a pediatrician. Babies born prematurely are more susceptible to this deficiency. Also history of vitamin D deficiency in pregnant woman increases risk in her child.
Natural sunlight exposure is effective in treating deficiency of vitamin D. However, the time of exposure should be consulted with the treating physician. Many infants who are breast fed for long time require supplemental vitamin D dose, which may be given as recommended by the physician.