- Calcium Deficiency: 17 Signs & Symptoms To Watch Out For
- What is Calcium Deficiency Disease?
- Signs and Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
- Causes of Calcium Deficiency
- How is Calcium Deficiency Diagnosed?
- How to Prevent and Treat Calcium Deficiency
- 12 signs you’re not getting enough calcium
- 1. Frequent broken bones
- 2. Poor sleep
- 3. Confusion or memory loss
- 4. Depression
- 5. Blood pressure changes
- 6. Heart failure
- 7. Difficulty losing weight
- 8. Numbness, tingling and muscle tremors
- 9. Muscle cramps
- 10. Weak and brittle nails
- 11. Poor teeth
- 12. Rickets
- Could You Have a Calcium Deficiency?
- Hypocalcemia: Definition and Patient Education
- Home care
- Calcium Deficiency Symptoms | Low Calcium Levels
- How Common Is Calcium Deficiency?
- Low Calcium Symptoms
- Muscle Problems
- Skin Symptoms
- Osteoporosis & Osteopenia
- Painful Premenstrual Syndrome
- Dental Problems
- Other Symptoms
- When Should You See a Doctor?
- How to Prevent Hypocalcemia?
- 11 Signs & Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency (Hypocalcemia)
- What is Calcium Deficiency (Hypocalcemia)?
- Calcium Blood Test
- Low Levels
- Hypocalcemia Signs and Symptoms
- 1) Muscle Cramps & Spasms
- 2) Numbness and Tingling
- 3) Fatigue
- 4) Abnormal Heart Rhythm
- 5) Seizures
- 6) Osteopenia & Osteoporosis
- 7) Dry skin
- 8) Confusion and Memory Loss
- 9) Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- 10) Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
- 11) Rickets
Calcium Deficiency: 17 Signs & Symptoms To Watch Out For
Calcium is arguably the most important nutrient in your body.
More than 99% of your calcium is stored in your bones and your teeth, which supports skeletal function and structure. The rest of the calcium in your body is used for other critical functions such as muscle contraction, blood vessel contraction and expansion, and sending messages through the nervous system.
But even though it’s one of the most critical minerals for your health, most people are still not getting enough. In fact, one study suggests as much as 68% of the American population is calcium deficient.
Adolescent girls and boys, women over 50, and men over 70 are at a particularly high risk of not meeting their daily calcium requirements. Menopausal women, vegans, and anyone with a dairy intolerance are also more prone to calcium deficiency than the general population.
What is Calcium Deficiency Disease?
Calcium deficiency disease, known as hypocalcemia, is a global health problem. People around the world are simply not getting enough calcium from their diets. This is particularly problematic in developing nations where food sources may be scarce.
When you have low calcium intake, you increase your risk of developing diseases :
- Osteopenia — Bone loss or bone thinning beyond the normal range is known as osteopenia. It’s a precursor to osteoporosis and is officially marked with a T-score between -1 and -2.49. T-scores are calculated as a part of DEXA scans, which measure bone mineral density.
- Osteoporosis — Excessive bone density loss resulting in a T-score of -2.5 or lower is categorized as osteoporosis. Bones become weak and brittle and put you at an increased risk of fracture.
If your body doesn’t get enough calcium to keep its base functions running smoothly, it will leach calcium from your bones to make up for the shortfall.
If this goes on for long enough, your bone mineral density will deplete to the point of osteopenia or worse, osteoporosis.
Since calcium is so critical throughout the body, low calcium symptoms can show up anywhere. And they can manifest in many different ways.
Signs and Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
Calcium deficiency symptoms vary from mild to severe if left untreated. But even if you don’t have any obvious signs associated with low calcium, especially early on, metabolic changes and potential dysfunctions may have already begun.
Minor calcium deficiency symptoms can include:
- Tingling Fingers
- Muscle cramps
- Poor appetite
- Weak or brittle fingernails
- Difficulty swallowing
More severe calcium deficiency symptoms can include:
- Mental confusion, irritability, depression, and anxiety
- Tooth decay
- Insufficient blood clotting
- Bone fractures
- Osteopenia or osteoporosis
- Growth and development delays in children
- Heart problems involving blood pressure and heart rhythms
The US Surgeon General warns that by 2020, 50% of people over the age of 50 will be at risk for osteoporotic fractures. That’s right — half of the entire 50+ population is at risk of breaking a bone.
America is one of the top sufferers from osteoporosis in the world and the age to start getting concerned is getting younger and younger. Why you ask? Look at the following major governmental studies.
From 1982–86 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted the “Total Diet Study.” The study found several age and gender groups deficient in calcium, magnesium, and several other minerals important to bone health.
In 1996, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) completed its “Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals,” which corroborated the FDA’s study. The USDA found both men and women of all ages were deficient in calcium. The most shocking statistic was for teen girls; 87% were not meeting their recommended daily intake of calcium.
The National Institutes of Health compares bone growth in children depositing money in the bank for when you’re older. During childhood and into early adulthood, more bone is deposited than withdrawn as the skeleton grows in density and size. So the more you build up in your formative years, the longer you’ll have a supply to draw from as you age.
But how can you know if you’re calcium-deficient? A 24-Hour Urine Calcium test is the optimal lab for people concerned about their rate of calcium/bone loss. Talk to your doctor about this test to establish your calcium baseline and give you an idea of how much more you need.
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Causes of Calcium Deficiency
Calcium deficiency doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years to manifest as physical symptoms, so by the time a deficiency becomes obvious, the damage is already done.
Before low calcium symptoms appear, keep these causes in mind:
This is a bit of an obvious one, but low calcium intake over a long period of time is a primary cause of calcium deficiency. How do you know how much calcium is enough? It’s recommended that adults over the age of 19 consume between 1,000–1,200 mg every day depending on your gender.
Certain medications may decrease calcium absorption by interfering with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
In particular, drugs PPIs, lipid-lowering statins, diuretics, anticonvulsants, and corticosteroids have been linked to reduced calcium and vitamin D levels.
For a more thorough look at drugs that can cause osteoporosis, check out our blog post on the top 12 prescription drugs that cause osteoporosis.
Vitamin D-resistant syndromes are caused by hereditary defects or mutations in the vitamin D receptor. Impaired vitamin D receptors can have a direct impact on the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Inherited disorders of calcium and phosphate homeostasis can also cause bone loss and calcium deficiency.
Evaluating organ systems and hormone levels will help with the diagnosis process and guide treatment options.
Calcium absorption refers to the amount of calcium that is absorbed from the digestive tract into your body’s circulatory system. Another term for this is calcium bioavailability.
Calcium absorption can be affected by the amount of calcium in your body, your vitamin D, and K2 levels, your magnesium and trace mineral status, age, pregnancy, and even certain plant substances in your diet. The amount of calcium consumed at a time can also affect absorption.
For example, the efficiency of calcium absorption decreases as the amount of calcium you consume at a meal increases. A good rule of thumb is to not take more than 500 mg of calcium at a time because the absorption becomes quite low on any amount above that limit.
Infants and children absorb as much as 60% of the calcium they consume. But once you reach adulthood, your absorption slowly decreases to about 15–20%. If you’re only absorbing 15–20% of the calcium you are consuming, it’s difficult to get enough through diet alone.
A decline in estrogen during menopause causes women to lose bone density more rapidly. Postmenopausal women have about one-tenth the amount of estrogen levels as premenopausal women. Meanwhile, low parathyroid hormone levels also impact your body’s ability to absorb calcium effectively.
Calcium is and always will be crucial for bone health. But when it comes to strong and healthy bones, there are other critical nutrients that need to be taken with calcium for optimal health benefits.
Calcium and vitamin D work really well together. When you take vitamin D, you increase your body’s ability to effectively absorb calcium.
Lara Pizzorno, the author of Your Bones, says, “Less widely known is that vitamin D also boosts the expression of the vitamin K-dependent proteins.
So when you take supplemental vitamin D, you are increasing the amount of calcium available in your body and therefore your need for vitamin K.” In other words, vitamin D increases the amount of calcium you absorb, but in turn, also increases your need for vitamin K.
Don’t mix this up with vitamin K1. Vitamin K2 has nothing to do with blood clotting factors. And it’s very difficult to get without supplementation. It’s not in leafy greens K1 and is found only in tiny amounts in eggs and cheeses. Its main role is to regulate calcium deposition. Meaning, vitamin K2 cleans calcium deposits from your arteries and moves it to your bones. Talk about important!
It’s reported that as many as 80% of Americans are magnesium-deficient! Deficiency of this mineral affects bone growth, bone fragility, and alters calcium metabolism and the hormones that regulate calcium.
How is Calcium Deficiency Diagnosed?
Hypocalcemia can be caused by low vitamin D levels leading to poor calcium absorption, or because of reduced parathyroid hormone function. Low parathyroid hormone levels lead to excessive calcium loss through the kidneys and reduced intestinal absorption of calcium.
Because many symptoms of hypocalcemia are obvious, your doctor will first make a clinical assessment of any symptoms, muscle spasms. One spasm in particular — Trousseau’s Sign, a hand spasm brought on by inflation of a blood pressure cuff — is a good indicator. That’s because it’s present in 94% of hypocalcemic patients and only 1% of non-hypocalcemic people.
Longstanding hypocalcemia is associated with neuropsychiatric symptoms (depression, anxiety, euphoria, psychosis, etc.), cataracts, and even intracranial pressure (pressure buildup inside your skull).
It should also be noted that gradual hypocalcemia is less ly to have obvious outward signs than if your calcium levels are suddenly and rapidly depleted.
Beyond observational diagnosis, your doctor will look at your blood work to check your calcium, vitamin D, and parathyroid levels. The most accurate vitamin D test is the 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test. Optimal blood levels of 25OHD are 50-80 nanograms per mL.
Your doctor will also ask about your medical history as hereditary conditions can play a role in developing hypocalcemia and osteoporosis. They may also recommend a DEXA scan depending on your age to assess your bone mineral density.
How to Prevent and Treat Calcium Deficiency
Hypocalcemia is easy to treat and prevent and generally involves adding more calcium to your diet. But your treatment plan will ultimately depend on the severity of your calcium deficiency and should be discussed with your doctor.
As far as prevention goes, it’s never too early to start. Focus on eating calcium-rich foods with plenty of bone-friendly nutrients. And definitely check out the recipe section of our blog for quick, easy, and delicious bone-healthy recipes the whole family can enjoy.
After peak bone mass, which most people reach around age 40, you begin to lose 1% of your total bone mineral density each year. Your absorption of vitamins and minerals also declines as you age. That is why recommendations for dietary calcium intake are higher if you’re 51 and older.
And yet, even with everything we know about the consequences of calcium deficiency, research shows that as much as 68% of Americans still have a low calcium intake.
So to ensure you are getting enough try AlgaeCal Plus.
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AlgaeCal’s plant-based calcium naturally contains all 13 essential bone-building nutrients and is specially formulated with vitamin D3, vitamin K2, and boron.
It’s also the perfect supplement to continue taking through menopause and as you age. Un traditional calcium supplements and osteoporosis treatments, there’s no time limit on how long you can safely take AlgaeCal Plus.
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12 signs you’re not getting enough calcium
Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the human body, is best known for its role in bone and teeth health.
[Read more: 7 ways to strengthen bones and keep them healthy]
But this vital mineral is so much more crucial to us than just strengthening the skeleton and teeth, playing a role in heart health, blood pressure, the nervous system and even body weight.
Calcium deficiency can have serious consequences, ranging from the brittle bones caused by osteoporosis, to memory loss and even heart failure, so it’s important to make sure you get enough.
People at risk of calcium deficiency include the elderly, people on high-protein or high-fibre diets, those who don’t eat dairy products or a lot of calcium-rich foods such as seafood, leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, dried fruit and tofu, and people who drink a lot of alcohol, as too much alcohol can have an impact on the amount of calcium absorbed and stored in the bones.
But how can you spot you’re calcium levels are low and you’re in danger of hypocalcemia (calcium deficiency)?
These are the signs to watch out for:
1. Frequent broken bones
Calcium is needed for the mineralisation of bones to keep them strong, so low calcium levels increase the lihood of broken bones, and osteoporosis in later life.
2. Poor sleep
Calcium is involved in the manufacture of the sleep hormone melatonin, and studies show calcium deficiency is related to the inability to achieve deep sleep and normal sleep cycles are restored when calcium levels are increased to normal.
3. Confusion or memory loss
Calcium affects the functioning of the nervous system, and low calcium levels can eventually lead to mental confusion, hallucinations and memory loss.
[Read more: 11 easy tricks to keep your brain young and healthy]
Calcium deficiency can lead to neurological changes which can cause depression.
5. Blood pressure changes
Calcium helps regulate blood pressure, and low levels could lead to either high or low blood pressure.
6. Heart failure
Calcium deficiency is linked to an abnormal heartbeat, which can lead to congestive heart failure, breathing problems, fatigue and swelling in the feet and ankles.
7. Difficulty losing weight
Research has shown calcium stored in fat cells helps regulate the processing and storage of fat in the body. Fat cells containing the most calcium burn more fat, aiding weight loss. Of course you’d still need to eat a lower calorie diet, but ensuring the calories you do eat are high in calcium could help shed the pounds.
[Read more: 11 ways not to get old and fat]
8. Numbness, tingling and muscle tremors
Low calcium is linked to neurological and physical impairment, leading to tingling, numbness and muscle tremors in hands, feet, and the face. You may also have an impaired sense of touchs caused by low calcium.
9. Muscle cramps
Muscle cramps and aches, especially in the thighs, arms, and underarms, may be a sign of calcium deficiency.
10. Weak and brittle nails
bones, nails need calcium to keep strong, so a lack of the mineral can make nails very weak, slow-growing and susceptible to breaks.
11. Poor teeth
Tooth decay is another sign of calcium deficiency – decay is, of course, mainly caused by poor oral hygiene but lack of calcium can contribute to weaker teeth, especially in the young and in pregnant women.
Rickets is the softening and weakening of bones in children, usually because of a deficiency in vitamin D, which aids in calcium
Could You Have a Calcium Deficiency?
Calcium is an essential mineral that helps keep your bones and teeth strong. Here's how to tell if you're getting enough of it.
You have more calcium in your body than any other mineral, and 99% of it is stored in your bones and teeth. This means consuming enough calcium is critical for keeping your bones and teeth strong, especially as you age. Calcium is also important for your nerves, heart, and muscle function.
The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for women and men is 1,000 mg to 1,300 mg, depending on your age. By staying within these limits, you’ll be on your way toward maintaining healthy bones and teeth and warding off osteoporosis.
But if you don't drink milk or eat dairy products, could you be at risk for a calcium deficiency?
A true calcium deficiency, or hypocalcemia, usually has nothing to do with diet. Instead, blood levels of calcium become too low as a result of taking certain medications and medical conditions (more on this later).
Dietary calcium deficiency—when you're not taking in enough calcium from food and beverages—is very rare. “I rarely ever see a healthy individual with low calcium,” says Lynn Mack, MD, an endocrinologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. “Most people can get enough calcium by eating a variety of foods rich in calcium.”
Calcium inadequacy is more common, which is when someone's dietary intake of the mineral is lower than recommended. This can lead to health problems osteoporosis over time.
Some types of medication can cause hypocalcemia by reducing calcium stores or making it more difficult for the body to absorb calcium. One category of medication is diuretics, which increase how much calcium is passed the body through urine. Certain antibiotics and antiseizure medications can also lower calcium stores.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which are used to combat stomach acid, don’t cause hypocalcemia, but they could reduce absorption of calcium, says Dr. Mack.
If you are taking a PPI and don’t get enough calcium from food, you may need to take a calcium citrate supplement such as Citracal, which doesn’t need stomach acid to be absorbed, she adds.
Problems with the parathyroid glands, which are located on the thyroid in the neck, can affect blood calcium levels. These four glands produce parathyroid hormone (PTH), which helps your body maintain appropriate balance of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.
If you’re not producing enough PTH—called hypoparathyroidism, which may be caused by an injury to the gland, a genetic condition, or an endocrine disorder—calcium levels can decline. (If you have too much PTH, on the other hand, then your blood calcium rises.
Kidney dysfunction can also bring down calcium levels; excess calcium is excreted in urine, which affects the kidneys' ability to activate vitamin D.
There are four groups that are most at risk for calcium inadequacy:
Postmenopausal women: During and after menopause, women produce less estrogen, which in turn decreases calcium absorption and increases bone resorption (the breakdown of old bone).
This can lead to osteoporosis. As you approach menopause, talk to your doctor about whether you should increase the amount of calcium-rich foods in your diet.
The RDA for adult women through age 50 is 1,000 mg, and 1,200 mg after that.
Women with amenorrhea: Amenorrhea is a condition in which menstrual periods stop (or never start) due to low body weight, a hormonal imbalance, stress, or other causes. Women who don't get a period have reduced circulating estrogen levels, which can mess with calcium balance.
Vegans and people who are lactose intolerant: Dairy is the top source of calcium in most diets, so if you avoid those products, you may not be getting enough of the mineral. Loading up on plenty of non-dairy calcium sources, such as collard greens and broccoli, may help offset this.
There’s an important connection between calcium and vitamin D. “Vitamin D is the key ingredient to allow the gut to absorb calcium,” says Dr. Mack. “So if you are vitamin D deficient, you don’t efficiently absorb calcium.”
Luckily, vitamin D is found in many foods, such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel are all great sources), as well as fortified foods, including cereal, milk, and some types of orange juice. Your body also makes vitamin D after you’ve been in the sun, which makes a little exposure every day important (with plenty of SPF, of course).
If you aren't eating enough calcium-rich foods and have a calcium inadequacy, then you won't experience any symptoms.
Symptoms of hypocalcemia, on the other hand, can vary and depend on what is causing the deficiency, how severe it is, and other individual factors, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Some people have no symptoms, while others may experience a variety of symptoms, such as muscle cramps or spasms, numbness, tingling sensations, poor appetite, or seizures. In addition, symptoms of related vitamin D deficiency can include achiness or tenderness in the bones, says Dr. Mack.
A simple bloodtestcan determine if you have low calcium levels.Your doctor might suggest a test if he or she thinks your levels are low due to parathyroid or other health problems.
There are two tests: one measures ionized calcium,but the test can be expensive and readings aren’t always accurate.The other measures total calcium. “It’s what is used by almost everyone to look at the calcium level,” explains Dr. Mack.
If tests show a deficiency, your doctor will try to determine the cause and then decide whether or not you need supplements.
The good news is that a calcium inadequacy can be corrected simply by ingesting more calcium and making sure you’re also getting enough vitamin D. “It’s better to get calcium through diet,” says Howard A. Selinger, MD, chair of family medicine at the Frank H.
Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. The main sources are dairy products such as milk, low-fat cheese, and yogurt, as well as some fruits and veggies. Many foods have added calcium, including soymilk, bread, and some kinds of bottled water.
And make sure you’re also filling your plate with plenty of vitamin D-rich foods, such as spinach and other deep-colored vegetables. “We say the darker the green, the better for you,” says Dr. Selinger.
If you’re concerned that diet won’t be enough, speak to your doctor about whether or not you need calcium or vitamin D supplements.
When a person has hypocalcemia, a doctor may recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements, and will also work to treat the underlying condition causing it.
There is such a thing as too much calcium, which is called hypercalcemia. You can consume too much calcium through supplements, but certain health problems can cause your body to develop excessive calcium stores, as well.
Those problems include overactive parathyroid glands, certain cancers, immobility, medications, and hereditary factors. Signs of excessive calcium are nausea, vomiting, confusion, and fatigue.
More serious symptoms can include problems with your kidneys, weakened bones, arrhythmia, or even severe nervous system problems dementia and coma.
Hypocalcemia: Definition and Patient Education
Hypocalcemia is a condition in which there are lower-than-average levels of calcium in the liquid part of the blood, or the plasma. Calcium has many important roles in your body:
- Calcium is key to the conduction of electricity in your body.
- Your nervous system needs calcium to function properly. Your nerves need calcium to relay messages between your brain and the rest of your body.
- Your muscles need calcium to move.
- Your bones need calcium to stay strong, grow, and heal.
Hypocalcemia may be the result of low calcium production or insufficient calcium circulation in your body. A deficiency of magnesium or vitamin D is linked to most cases of hypocalcemia.
Some people don’t have any symptoms or signs of hypocalcemia. As it affects the nervous system, babies with the condition may twitch or tremor. Adults who do have symptoms may experience:
- muscle stiffness
- muscle spasms
- paresthesias, or feelings of pins and needles, in the extremities
- changes in mood, such as anxiety, depression, or irritability
- memory issues
- difficulty speaking or swallowing
- papilledema, or swelling of the optic disc
The symptoms of severe hypocalcemia are:
- congestive heart failure
- laryngospasms, or seizures of the voice box
The long-term symptoms of hypocalcemia include:
- dry skin
- brittle nails
- kidney stones or other calcium deposits in the body
The most common cause of hypocalcemia is hypoparathyroidism, which occurs when the body secretes a less-than-average amount of parathyroid hormone (PTH). Low PTH levels lead to low calcium levels in your body. Hypoparathyroidism can be inherited, or it can be the result of surgical removal of the thyroid gland or cancer of the head and neck.
Other causes of hypocalcemia include:
- not enough calcium or vitamin D in your diet
- some medications, such as phenytoin (Dilantin), phenobarbital, and rifampin
- intense exercise
- irregular magnesium or phosphate levels
- kidney disease
- diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal disorders that prevent your body from absorbing calcium properly
- a phosphate or calcium infusion
- cancer that’s spreading
- diabetes in the mother, in the case of infants
People with a vitamin D or magnesium deficiency are at risk of hypocalcemia. Other risk factors include:
- a history of gastrointestinal disorders
- kidney failure
- liver failure
- anxiety disorders
Newborn babies are at risk because their bodies aren’t fully developed. This is especially true for children born to diabetic mothers.
The first step in diagnosis is a blood test to determine your calcium levels. Your doctor may also use mental and physical exams to test for signs of hypocalcemia. A physical exam may include a study of your:
A mental exam may include tests for:
Your doctor may also test for Chvostek’s and Trousseau’s signs, which are both linked to hypocalcemia. Chvostek’s sign is a twitching response when a set of facial nerves is tapped.
Trousseau’s sign is a spasm in the hands or feet that comes from ischemia, or a restriction in blood supply to tissues.
Twitching or spasms are considered positive responses to these tests and suggest neuromuscular excitability due to hypocalcemia.
Some cases of hypocalcemia go away without treatment. Some cases of hypocalcemia are severe and can even be life-threatening. If you have an acute case, your doctor will most ly give you calcium through your vein, or intravenously. Other treatments for hypocalcemia include:
Many hypocalcemia cases are easily treated with a dietary change. Taking calcium, vitamin D, or magnesium supplements, or eating foods with these can help treat it.
Spending time in the sun will increase your vitamin D levels. The amount of sun needed is different for everyone. Be sure to use sunscreen for protection if you’re in the sun for a long time. Your doctor may recommend a calcium-rich diet plan to help treat it as well.
The symptoms often go away with proper treatment. The condition is rarely life-threatening. In many cases, it goes away on its own. People with chronic hypocalcemia may need medication throughout their lives.
People with hypocalcemia are at risk of developing osteoporosis because their bones release calcium into the bloodstream, instead of using it. Other complications include:
- kidney stones
- kidney failure
- abnormal heartbeats, or arrhythmia
- nervous system issues
Maintaining healthy calcium levels in your body is key to preventing this condition. Eat calcium-rich foods and if you don’t get enough vitamin D or magnesium, you may need to add supplements of them to your diet, as well as calcium supplements.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms | Low Calcium Levels
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. However, hypocalcemia, commonly known as calcium deficiency, happens more often than we think. When calcium in the blood is too low, people start experiencing low calcium symptoms.
Average calcium levels are kept through the actions of the parathyroid hormone (PTH), the kidneys, and the intestines.
Calcium deficiency may be the result of parathyroid glands issues, kidney disorders, or side effects from specific medications used.
Complications from calcium deficiency can dramatically change your lifestyle if the conditions goes untreated. To avoid difficulties, people need to stay on high alert about these common low calcium symptoms.
How Common Is Calcium Deficiency?
According to a 2013 report, calcium deficiency is most common in older adults, teenagers, and people who are overweight. The reported prevalence for permanent hypocalcemia ranges from 0.4% and 33% with renal failure remaining the most common type of hypocalcemia, followed by vitamin D deficiency.
While the incidence of hypocalcemia is difficult to quantify, global estimates in 2015 accounted for 3.4 billion people at risk for calcium deficiency.
Low Calcium Symptoms
Initially, low calcium results in no symptoms or relatively unnoticeable symptoms, which can make the issue worse as people don’t notice it. Hypocalcemia symptoms can vary from person to person as well as age and severity of the deficiency.
Cramps, muscle spasms, and aches are the earliest signs of calcium deficiency. Unfortunately, most people don’t attribute these symptoms to hypocalcemia. Most people experience pain in their arms and thighs when walking or moving. Calcium deficiency can also result in numbness and tingling in the arms, hands, legs, feet, and around the mouth.
Insomnia, sleepiness, and extreme fatigue are one of the most common symptoms of low calcium in the blood. Most people experience lethargy, a feeling of sluggishness, and lack of energy. Symptoms of dizziness, brain fog, and lightheadedness are also experienced.
People with chronic low calcium levels often experience skin and nail symptoms. Usually, the skin becomes dry and itchy. Researches have actually found a correlation between hypocalcemia and eczema and psoriasis.
Symptoms include redness, itchiness, and skin blisters. A calcium deficiency may also result in dry, broken, and brittle nails.
Hypocalcemia can also contribute to alopecia, a condition that causes hair to fall out in round patches.
Osteoporosis & Osteopenia
Perhaps the most well-known symptom associated with low calcium. Calcium deficiency is strongly linked to osteopenia, which results in low mineral density of bones, which as a result can lead to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis makes bones thinner and more prone to fractures. Pain, posture problems, and in some cases disability are all associated with osteoporosis.
Both conditions diminish bone density and increase the risk of bone fractures.
Painful Premenstrual Syndrome
Most people don’t make the connection between low calcium levels and painful premenstrual syndrome. However, studies have demonstrated the link between increased calcium intake and improvement of PMS symptoms.
Calcium is responsible for keeping our bones and teeth healthy. When the body lacks calcium, it starts pulling from internal sources such as the teeth. Low calcium levels can lead to weak roots, brittle teeth, irritated gums, and tooth decay. Calcium deficiency in infants can also delay tooth formation, causing more problems in the future.
Low calcium levels have actually been d to mood disorders, including depression. While evidence to support such claims is still lacking, researchers believe that calcium deficiency may contribute to depressive symptoms.
Beyond the most common symptoms, people can also experience unexpected ones that initially are not connected to calcium deficiency. Some of these unusual symptoms include:
- Chest pains
- Difficulty swallowing
- Voice changes
- Chronic itching
While these symptoms are not the norm, they are still warning signs of low calcium levels in the blood that must be addressed.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Anyone experiencing symptoms of calcium deficiency should seek medical treatment. Often, doctors will order tests and check the levels of calcium in the blood. The normal range for adults is between 8.8 and 10.4 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). On the other hand, children require more calcium, which is why their healthy levels can’t be lower than 8.8 mg/dL.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your health care provider immediately:
- Severe constipation
- Vomiting more than 4-5 times in 24 hours
- Confusion and excessive sleepiness
- Muscle twitching
- Increased urination
- Poor appetite that does not improve
- Diarrhea with more than 4-6 episodes in 24 hours
How to Prevent Hypocalcemia?
The safest and easiest way to prevent hypocalcemia is by incorporating more calcium to your diet. Incorporating calcium-rich foods such as dairy products, salmon, broccoli, turnip greens, sesame seed, soy milk, and kale.
The daily recommended amount of calcium is 1,000 milligrams (mg) for people aged 19-50, while children, teens, and older adults need between 1,200mg – 1,300mg.
For those who can’t meet their calcium recommended daily intake through their diets alone, calcium supplements are highly effective at maintaining healthy calcium levels. Choose calcium citrate or calcium citrate malate, ideally, you want to take them between meals for the best absorption.
In addition, sometimes taking vitamin D supplements may be necessary to increase the absorption of calcium from the digestive tract. Many calcium supplements include vitamin D to help increase absorption and help restore calcium levels faster.
Low calcium levels can have life-altering consequences. If you believe you’re experiencing calcium deficiency levels, we encourage you to reach out to your health care professional to start treatment immediately.
11 Signs & Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency (Hypocalcemia)
Calcium deficiency is relatively common but can be hard to pinpoint. How do you know if you lack calcium? Calcium deficiency can cause diverse health issues: tingling in the hands and feet, muscle aches, irregular heartbeat, fatigue, and even memory loss. Learn how to spot the signs and symptoms of low blood calcium levels.
What is Calcium Deficiency (Hypocalcemia)?
Hypocalcemia is excessively low levels of calcium in the blood. Depending on the severity, symptoms can range from mild or unnoticeable to serious and life-threatening. Calcium deficiency can be both acute and chronic .
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. It is vital for the bones, heart, muscles, and nervous system. Every cell in your body needs calcium! But only around 1% of your calcium is found in the blood, while the remaining 99% is stored in the bones and teeth .
Keep in mind that blood calcium levels usually decrease due to non-dietary causes, and rarely due to dietary calcium deficiency. Read more about what causes hypocalcemia here.
Calcium Blood Test
A calcium test measures your calcium levels in the blood. Most commonly, the test estimates your total serum calcium, which includes [3, 4]:
- Calcium bound to proteins, mainly albumin (about 40 – 45%)
- Calcium complexed with phosphate and citrate (about 10%)
- Ionized calcium, also known as free or active calcium (about 45 – 50%)
You don’t need to prepare for this test or fast beforehand. A healthcare professional will simply collect a blood sample from your vein that will be analyzed.
Your doctor may also order an ionized (free) calcium test.
Ionized calcium is the body’s active form of calcium. It is assumed to be around 45 – 50% of the total blood calcium, although the exact percentage may vary. Ionized calcium levels are often estimated total blood calcium and albumin levels. Testing ionized calcium is far more precise, but it requires special equipment and is expensive .
The normal range for calcium levels in adults is around 8.5 to 10.5 mg/dL. These values can vary slightly from lab to lab. Hypocalcemia is defined as total blood calcium under 8.5 mg/dL. If calcium blood levels drop under 7 mg/dL, hypocalcemia is considered severe [5, 6, 7].
Hypocalcemia Signs and Symptoms
Hypocalcemia can be life-threatening if left untreated. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor will run tests to uncover the underlying causes.
1) Muscle Cramps & Spasms
The hallmark symptoms of calcium deficiency are muscle cramps and spasms. Calcium helps muscles contract and relax. Muscles lacking calcium can no longer maintain their normal tone. This can lead to aches, cramps, spasms, and muscle weakness [8, 9, 10].
2) Numbness and Tingling
Another key symptom of hypocalcemia is tingling in the extremities, especially in the hands and feet. Severe deficiency can also cause numbness. Every nerve cell in your body needs calcium. When calcium drops too low, nerve cells struggle to register sensations and send off signals [8, 9, 10, 11].
Hypocalcemia may cause fatigue. Since muscle fibers and nerves require calcium, its depletion in cells marks the onset of fatigue, leading to exhaustion and weakness [1, 12, 13].
4) Abnormal Heart Rhythm
Irregular heartbeat is a typical symptom of hypocalcemia and can be life-threatening if severe. It frequently causes several abnormalities that can be registered by an electrocardiogram (ECG).
It’s no surprise that calcium deficiency can disrupt the heart, considering that the heart is a muscle. If heart cells don’t get enough calcium, they stop working as they should. This can set off the normal heart rhythm, cause spasms of the heart muscle, and narrow the arteries [14, 15, 16].
Brain cells need optimal levels of calcium to release neurotransmitters, while muscles need it to contract. Hypocalcemia can over-excite the brain, which can trigger seizures .
6) Osteopenia & Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis or brittle bones is considered a calcium deficiency disorder. Osteopenia is a milder form of osteoporosis. When calcium levels in the blood drop, your body has to release more of it from bones to compensate. Over time, calcium deficiency can cause extreme bone weakness, frailty, and dramatically increase the risk of fractures .
7) Dry skin
Dry or scaly skin may be a symptom of hypocalcemia. Calcium’s less-known role is to support skin health: it decreases the pH of the skin and protects the skin barrier. This prevents the excessive loss of water from the skin. When calcium blood levels fall too low, the skin can no longer maintain moisture and a healthy pH [18, 19, 1].
8) Confusion and Memory Loss
Confusion, disorientation, and memory loss can all be symptoms of hypocalcemia. Nerve and brain cells depend on calcium. Calcium entering nerve cells stimulates the release of neurotransmitters. Calcium deficiency can significantly impair cognitive function [20, 1, 21, 11].
9) Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is extremely common and the exact causes are diverse. Low levels of vitamin D and calcium can trigger it or contribute to the symptoms, according to a large review of 28 trials. In such cases, vitamin D and calcium can reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of PMS .
10) Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
Calcium keeps your teeth strong. Food, drinks, and mouth bacteria can all degrade minerals in the teeth. Adequate calcium levels are necessary to prevent this mineral loss. What’s more, studies suggest that calcium deficiency is one of the culprits of gum disease [23, 24].
A lack of calcium (or vitamin D) can lead to rickets in children. Calcium deficiency prevents the proper mineralization of bones, which is extremely important for a growing child. Bones become weak and soft, while deformities are also possible. Rickets is uncommon in the developed world [25, 26].