Vitamin D Overdose: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Reviewed by Robert Falk, MD
Normally, vitamin D is good for you. Vitamin D is crucial to maintaining bone health, cell health and aids the immune system. But too much of anything, even vitamin D, can get you very ill with symptoms of hypervitaminosis D or vitamin d overdose.
The average person needs only a little bit of vitamin D in his or her diet. Children and adults only need about 5 micrograms per day. Babies less than 12 months old need 50 micrograms per day in order to help them grow. Both adults and children can consume up to 25 micrograms a day without any ill effect. Adults and children would need to take about 1000 micrograms for weeks or months before exhibiting any symptoms.
People often experience vitamin D overdose if they consume too much vitamin D and expose themselves to sunshine more than 15 minutes a day three times a week. Vitamin D is found naturally in some foods like beef liver, cheese, cod liver oil and fatty fish like tuna or salmon. It is also found in nutritional supplements in pill or injection form.
Vitamin D overdose is most often caused by people taking mega-doses of vitamin D supplements rather than eating too many foods with vitamin D in them. Rickets patients and women suffering from osteoporosis are most likely to take large doses of vitamin d and develop hypervitaminosis D. Small children that may mistake vitamin D pills for candy may also overdose. Always keep vitamins and other nutritional supplements hidden away from children and supervise their vitamin taking closely.
Vitamin D overdose produces short term and long term symptoms. The latter can cause severe medical complications, which is why any symptoms of hypervitaminosis D needs to be treated as soon as possible.
- Nausea that may be accompanied with vomiting and appetite loss
- Sudden weight loss
- Suddenly itchy skin
- Feeling thirsty far more often than usual, even after drinking water
- Excreting far more urine than usual
- Painful headache
- Temporary deafness
- Far more irritability than usual
Vitamin D overdose strains the kidneys, which causes many of the short term and long term symptoms. Because the kidneys cannot filter the blood properly, too much calcium and phosphorus begin to damage internal organs. This can cause death. Long term symptoms include:
- Development of kidney stones
- Kidney failure
- Elevated blood pressure
- Too much calcium in the blood, which leads to calcium absorption problems
- Irregular heartbeat
- Damage to lung tissue
- Damage to heart tissue
- Pregnant women may give birth to deformed or mentally retarded babies
- Permanent deafness
- Losing too much weight
Patients with hypervitaminosis D need to stop all vitamin D and calcium supplements. In some cases, patients may need hospitalization and IV treatments in order to stabilize. Patients need their internal organs checked for damage, especially the kidneys. Treatment then consists of treating the individual’s symptoms.