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Calcium Deficiency Symptoms

Calcium Deficiency Symptoms

Calcium is one of the essential minerals required for proper functioning of the human body. Deficiency of calcium can lead to fragile/brittle bones, osteoporosis in women, abnormal stimulation of the nervous system and other problems. However, early diagnosis of this deficiency can prevent these complications.
Amruta Deshpande
Last Updated: Mar 1, 2018
Calcium is a mineral abundantly found in the human body. It is the main constituent of the skeleton and helps in the formation and maintenance of our bones and teeth. Calcium plays a significant role in the contraction of muscles and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes. The expansion and contraction of blood vessels depends on calcium, it also plays an important role in the clotting of blood. This mineral is also required for muscle contractions and relaxation, nerve and hormone function, and blood pressure regulation. In short, calcium plays a very important role in the functioning of the body, therefore it should be consumed in sufficient amounts regularly.
Foods that naturally contain calcium include milk and other dairy products, green, leafy vegetables, seafood, nuts, and dried beans. Calcium is also present in orange juice, breakfast cereals, breads, and other fortified food products. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the absorption of calcium. A major part of the absorbed calcium is stored in the bones, while the remaining is present in blood. Hence, short-term calcium deficiency can be balanced by utilizing the calcium stored in the bones. But if the deficiency is severe, and lasts long, the calcium in the bones starts depleting which can lead to various health problems.

Age group Calcium Intake/day
Infants 200-260 mg
1-3 700 mg
4-8 1,000 mg
9-18 1,300 mg
19-50 1,000 mg
51-70 (males) 1,000 mg
51-70 (females) 1,200 mg

*For pregnant women, calcium intake is 1,300 mg/day **Source: INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Calcium deficiency is one of the major dietary deficiencies in America's children today. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 86% of teenage girls and 64% of teenage boys suffer from calcium deficiency.
Calcium deficiency occurs mainly in two ways. Firstly, in the form of dietary calcium deficiency, a condition in which there is inadequate calcium intake. This results in depleted calcium stores in the bones and can lead to thinning and weakening of the bones. The second, hypocalcemia, is the presence of low serum calcium levels in the blood, and is commonly seen in patients with chronic diseases, hepatic disease or even long-term hospitalization.
Signs and Symptoms

Calcium deficiency can be detected by observing small but evident symptoms. Early signs of calcium deficiency include brittle nails, dry skin, yellowing of teeth, muscle cramps, excessive eye twitching, and weakness. Sweating in cold weather is another sign of low calcium levels. The symptoms of calcium deficiency vary depending on the type of calcium deficiency, the underlying cause, the severity, and individual factors. Calcium deficiency, in general, is mainly associated with skeletal abnormalities. The bones become brittle and are prone to fracture. It causes reduced bone density, making them thinner and weaker. If these symptoms are not identified at the right time, it can lead to several bone disorders like osteopenia, osteoporosis, and osteomalacia. Some of the calcium deficiency symptoms include:
  • Numbness
  • Burning or prickling sensation (Paresthesia)
  • Bleeding under the skin, forming tiny red dots (Petechiae)
  • Bone pain or tenderness
  • Fracture that occurs with little or no trauma
  • Abnormal curving of the spine and stooped posture (Kyphosis)
Some less common symptoms include hypertension, kidney stones, unusual menstrual cramps and miscarriages.
Calcium Deficiency in Women

The absorption of calcium in the body decreases with age. Hence, there should be regular intake of calcium through the diet to fulfill the calcium needs of the body. Deficiency of calcium in young girls causes problems like irregular period, menstrual cramps, late puberty and anemia. It tends to lower the resistance of the body, making them prone to various infections. The requirement of calcium is highest during pregnancy. It is the key mineral requirement for the bone formation of the baby. Hence, women should consume fair amount of calcium during pregnancy. Severe bleeding, lack of breast milk, extended lying-in period can be other symptoms of deficiency after childbirth.
Lack of calcium in the diet can pose risks like osteopenia and eventually osteoporosis in menopausal women. Hence, they should include adequate calcium to prevent bone loss during this period.
Calcium Deficiency in Children

Infants and adolescents have a higher need of calcium as compared to other age groups. They need this extra calcium for growth and formation of bones. Sometimes, children are born calcium-deficient as a result of deficiency in the mother. Such children tend to develop weak bones. They are also susceptible to frequent bouts of indigestion and diarrhea. Consumption of adequate amounts of calcium at a younger age keeps serious conditions like osteoporosis and osteomalacia at bay during later years. Osteomalacia in children is commonly known as rickets which causes softening of bones leading to fractures. Hence, it is very important for children to have a calcium-rich diet.
Untreated calcium deficiency can also lead to serious complications, such as cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension (high blood pressure), and various bone disorders. The key is prevention and prompt diagnosis. Eating a well-balanced diet can provide all the necessary nutrients and help prevent calcium deficiency. Consult your nutritionist or dietitian to plan your diet accordingly.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.