Calcium is one of the body's essential minerals. It is utilized by the body to fortify the bones and tooth enamel, by supporting their framework and durability.
Calcium is also necessary for the proper functioning of the muscles, including the heart. Furthermore, it promotes nerve function by enabling them to convey impulses, from the body to the central nervous system and vice versa.
Unfortunately, when there is a lack of calcium, the body uses the calcium located in the bones, resulting in bone mass loss. As a result, the bones become fragile and porous. Consequently, a person is more likely to develop disorders, such as osteoporosis and hypocalcemia. Muscle spasms and cramps may also occur along with tingling and numbness in the extremities. When walking, they may even experience feelings of discomfort in their arms and/or thighs.
Causes of Calcium Deficiency
Vegetarians frequently struggle to consume adequate amounts of calcium. Also, those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to certain foods struggle to maintain adequate calcium levels as well. This is because there is only a limited amount of food substitutes that contain adequate levels of calcium, for those with these ailments.
Other causes of calcium deficiency are malnutrition and malabsorption, which is the body's inability to absorb minerals and vitamins. When a person isn’t consuming enough nutrients, it not only affects calcium levels, but also phosphorus, magnesium, or vitamin D levels. These nutrients help promote calcium usage and its uptake. So, without these minerals, it can also cause a deficiency of calcium.
Unfortunately, as people get older, they are more prone to developing calcium deficiency. This could be due to a variety of other factors other than the ones mentioned above. The following are additional causes of calcium deficiency:
- Breast and prostate cancer
- Renal failure
- Low thyroid hormone levels
- Past family history
Complications of Calcium Deficiency
Unfortunately, lack of calcium can be detrimental to a person’s health. It can lead to infertility, irregular menstrual cycles, high blood pressure, eye damage, and curvature of the spine. Furthermore, it can also cause extreme fatigue, nail problems, alopecia, among other issues. In some cases, calcium deficiency can lead to death. The following are additional complications caused by calcium deficiency:
- Joint pain
- Softening of the bones, or osteomalacia
- Loss of bone mass
- Bone fractures
- Weakening of the bones
- Heart rhythm abnormality
- Loss of height
- Dental changes, such as gum irritation, tooth decay, brittle teeth, and weakened tooth roots
- Brain alterations
Calcium deficiency can cause seizures, calcification of the basal ganglia, Parkinson's disease, and other neurological complications. They are frequently irreversible, but the type of condition determines the outcome.
Prevention and Treatment of Calcium Deficiency
It is imperative to treat calcium deficiency to avoid severe complications. Replenishing the body with adequate levels of calcium is essential, when treating this condition. The following are ways calcium deficiency can be treated:
- Any medications that negatively impact calcium levels should be modified. This can only be done by a licensed physician.
- It is important to consume foods that are rich in calcium, including nuts, dairy products, and dried beans. Leafy, green vegetables as well as seafood are also rich in calcium. Orange juice and bread are also often calcium-enriched.
- When engaging in exercise, make sure it is not too strenuous.
- When a patient's doctor detects a calcium deficiency, calcium supplements are typically prescribed. In some cases, such as malnutrition, both phosphorus and vitamin D may be prescribed as well. Patients should always follow the doctor's orders, when taking these supplements.