Calcium deficiency can lead to dental changes, cataracts, alterations in the brain, and osteoporosis, which causes the bones to become brittle. A calcium deficiency may cause no early symptoms. It is usually mild, but without treatment, it can become life threatening. Calcium is essential for many bodily functions, so a deficiency can have widespread effects, including on the muscles, bones, and teeth, as well as on mental health. If a low dietary intake is responsible for the deficiency, there are usually no early symptoms. In the longer term, a person may experience osteopenia, or low bone density. Without treatment, this can lead to osteoporosis, or brittle bones.
Symptoms of calcium deficiency are more evident as time goes on, but there are some initial signs. According to Bansari Acharya, a registered dietitian-nutritionist in Detroit, Michigan, calcium deficiency can cause symptoms like:
Muscle aches and pains
According to Jinan Banna, PhD, a registered dietitian, and professor of nutrition at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, long-term calcium deficiency can cause:
An increased risk of bone fractures
“When we do not get enough calcium from our diet, our bones correct the deficit by releasing calcium back into our blood and body fluids,” says Rashid. “When this occurs regularly, over time, it can contribute to low bone mass, osteopenia, and osteoporosis. All of these conditions increase risk of fracture.
The bones store calcium well, but they require high levels to stay strong. When overall levels of calcium are low, the body can divert some from the bones, making them brittle and prone to injury. Over time, having too little calcium can cause osteopenia, a reduction of mineral density in the bones. This can lead to osteoporosis, which causes the bones to thin and become vulnerable to fractures, as well as pain and problems with posture. It can take takes years for osteoporosis and other complications of a calcium deficiency to develop.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as muscle aches, pains, tingling in the hands or feet, or mental status changes, you should see your doctor as soon as possible,” says Acharya, noting it is even more important to pay them a visit if your family has a history of osteoporosis.
Another reason to visit your doctor is if you’ve begun shrinking. “If you notice that your height is trending down at your yearly physical, that may be a sign of bone loss from long-term inadequate calcium intakes. Alongside increasing your calcium intake, make sure you’re consuming adequate amounts of vitamin D, as it helps your body to absorb and utilize calcium.
Your doctor may also recommend treating the condition through prescription calcium supplements, says Acharya. But consuming more than your upper intake limit for calcium can cause constipation, issues with
zinc absorption, and kidney stones.
Low levels of calcium in women have been linked to severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS). As per a 2017 study, participants improved mood and had reduced fluid retention after taking 500 milligrams of calcium daily for 2 months. In 2019, a study concluded that low levels of vitamin D and calcium during the second half of the menstrual cycle might contribute to symptoms of PMS.