Leave vitamin D deficiency diagnosis to the experts, warn UAE doctors

Management and treatment of vitamin D deficiency depends on the symptoms and level of deficiency, said Dr Maysoon Kamil Hassan of Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

Taif Idris, a Sudanese expatriate in Abu Dhabi, discovered she had vitamin D deficiency after being treated for a fractured leg bone. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // Doctors are warning against taking Vitamin D supplements without getting tested for deficiency by an expert or being monitored.

Dr Maysoon Kamil Hassan, consultant in histocyto-pathology at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said management and treatment of vitamin D deficiency depended on the patient’s levels of the vitamin as well as their symptoms.

“A lot of people are diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency and they keep taking the supplement,” she said. “However, it needs to be monitored by the doctor.”

She said people who thought they may be deficient should visit a family doctor, who can request tests to find the exact levels of vitamin D in the blood, although insurer Daman no longer covers the fees for the tests.

“Sometimes the patient has a severe deficiency, and they should be treated on an urgent basis and may need high doses of vitamin D injection but sometimes the doctor may advise only tablets, in which case it will be a small dose,” said Dr Hassan.

Patients were also asked to expose themselves to sunlight for about 10 minutes a day, and consume foods with high quantities of the vitamin, such as milk and dairy products.

However, this may not be enough for someone with severe vitamin D deficiency, said Dr Hassan.

Taif Idris, a Sudanese expatriate living in Abu Dhabi, discovered she had vitamin D deficiency after being treated for a fractured leg bone.

“I was not monitoring my vitamin D levels and only after the fracture did I come to know I had a deficiency,” the 23-year-old said, who was prescribed vitamin D injections and later supplements.

“I wasn’t going to the beach and had no exposure to the sun,” she said. “I have started doing outdoor activities like jogging now.”

Dr Atheer Al Ansari, consultant rheumatologist at Al Noor Hospital, said that for specific conditions such as osteoporosis, osteomalacia and severe vitamin D deficiency, supplements were essential but for the general population, there was no clear indication about the benefit of supplements.

Two recent American studies showed no benefit from routine, unprescribed supplements for general health and for aches and pains, Dr Al Ansari said.

Dr Manohar Reddy, specialist of internal medicine from NMC Specialty Hospital Abu Dhabi, said drinking about 250 millilitres of milk each day gave a person 100 units of vitamin D.

The average person requires 600 units each day, while the elderly require 800 units. Oily fish such as salmon and mackerel have high levels of the vitamin, Dr Reddy said.