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 liked 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.