Calcium Deficiency: An Overview

Calcium deficiency is a condition in which the body has an inadequate amount of calcium. Calcium is a mineral that is essential for many aspects of health, including the health of bones, teeth, and a normal heart rhythm. This mineral is also required for muscle contractions and relaxation, nerve and hormone function, and blood pressure regulation.

Calcium must be ingested daily and absorbed effectively to maintain optimal health. Most people can get enough calcium by eating a variety of foods rich in calcium. Foods that naturally contain calcium include milk and other dairy products; green, leafy vegetables; seafood; nuts; and dried beans. Calcium is also added to orange juice, breakfast cereals, bread, and other fortified food products.

Types of calcium deficiency

There are two types of calcium deficiency:

  • Dietary calcium deficiency is a condition in which there is an inadequate calcium intake, which can lead to depleted calcium stores in the bones, thinning and weakening of the bones, and osteoporosis.
  • Hypocalcemia is a low level of calcium in the blood. It can occur from taking medications, such as diuretics; medical treatments; or disease processes, such as renal failure or hypoparathyroidism.

Symptoms of dietary calcium deficiency

There are generally no symptoms of dietary calcium deficiency until bone thinning occurs and fractures develop in weakened bones. Symptoms can be vague, take years to develop, and may not be noticeable until advanced osteoporosis has developed. Symptoms can include:

  • Back or neck pain, which can be severe because of spinal bone fractures
  • Bone pain or tenderness
  • A fracture that occurs with little or no trauma
  • Loss of height
  • Stooped posture due to kyphosis (abnormal curving of the spine and humpback)

Symptoms of hypocalcemia

Symptoms of hypocalcemia, or low levels of calcium in the blood, are generally different from symptoms of dietary calcium deficiency. Some people may have no symptoms of hypocalcemia, while others may experience the following symptoms:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Numbness
  • Paresthesia (burning or prickling sensations)
  • Petechiae (bleeding under the skin forming tiny red dots)
  • Poor appetite
  • Purpura (large bruised areas)

Treatment For Calcium Deficiency

  • Adjusting or changing medications that are associated with calcium deficiencies, such as diuretics. You should not change or stop taking any medication without first consulting with your licensed health care provider.
  • Consuming adequate or increased amounts of calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products; green, leafy vegetables, seafood, nuts, and dried beans
  • Consuming calcium-enriched foods, such as orange juice and bread
  • Engaging in a regular, but not an extremely strenuous exercise program
  • Taking calcium supplements as recommended by your licensed health care provider. Supplementation may include vitamin D, and phosphorous.
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