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Vitamin D is a family of compounds that is essential for the proper growth and formation of teeth and bones. This test measures the level of vitamin D in the blood.
Two forms of vitamin D can be measured in the blood, 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. The 25-hydroxyvitamin D is the major form found in the blood and is the relatively inactive precursor to the active hormone, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Because of its long half-life and higher concentration, 25-hydroxyvitamin D is commonly measured to assess and monitor vitamin D status in individuals.
Vitamin D comes from two sources: endogenous, which is produced in the skin on exposure to sunlight, and exogenous, which is ingested in foods and supplements. The chemical structures of the types of vitamin D are slightly different, and they are named vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol, which comes from plants) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol, which comes from animals). The D2 form is found in fortified foods and in most vitamin preparations and supplements. Vitamin D3 is the form produced in the body and is also used in some supplements. Vitamin D2 and D3 are equally effective when they are converted by the liver and the kidney into the active form, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
Some tests do not distinguish D2 and D3 forms of the vitamin and report only the total result. Newer methods, however, may report levels of both D2 and D3 and then add them together for a total level.
The main role of vitamin D is to help regulate blood levels of calcium, phosphorus, and (to a lesser extent) magnesium. Vitamin D is vital for the growth and health of bone; without it, bones will be soft, malformed, and unable to repair themselves normally, resulting in diseases called rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Vitamin D has also been shown to influence the growth and differentiation of many other tissues and to help regulate the immune system. These other functions have implicated vitamin D in other disorders, such as autoimmunity and cancer.
Based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that two-thirds of U.S. population has sufficient vitamin D, while roughly one-quarter are at risk of inadequate vitamin D and 8% are at risk of deficiency, as defined by the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) set by the Institute of Medicine.
People at higher risk of deficiency include the elderly or obese people, people who don't get enough sun exposure, people with darker skin, and people who take certain medications for long periods of time. Adequate sun exposure is typically estimated to be two periods per week of 5-20 minutes. People who do not have adequate sun exposure may obtain the vitamin D that they need from food sources or supplements.
Ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2); Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3); Calcidiol (25-hydroxyvitamin D[25(OH)D]); Calcifidiol (25-hydroxy-vitamin D); Calcitriol (1,25 dihydroxy-vitamin D [1,25(OH)(2)D]); 25-hydroxyvitamin D; 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D.
Bone Metabolism; Mineral Levels; Parathyroid Function;
To determine if you have a vitamin D deficiency; if you are receiving vitamin D supplementation, to determine if it is adequate. When you have an abnormal calcium, phosphorus, and/or parathyroid hormone level; when you have evidence of bone disease or bone weakness; when you are at high risk of deficiency or a healthcare practitioner suspects that you might have a vitamin D deficiency; prior to starting drug treatment for osteoporosis; periodically to monitor treatment of vitamin D deficiency.
25-hydroxyvitamin D When calcium is low and/or a person has symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, such as bone malformation in children (rickets) and bone weakness, softness, or fracture in adults (osteomalacia), 25-hydroxyvitamin D usually is ordered to identify a possible deficiency in vitamin D.
The test may be requested when an individual is known to be at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Older adults, people who are institutionalized or homebound and/or have limited sun exposure, those who are obese, who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, and/or who have fat malabsorption are at an increased risk of a vitamin D deficiency. Also included in this group are people with darker skin and breastfed infants.
25-hydroxyvitamin D is often requested before an individual begins drug therapy for osteoporosis.
1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D This testing may be ordered when kidney disease or abnormalities of the enzyme that converts 25-hydroxyvitamin D to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D is suspected. Rarely, this test may be done when calcium is high or a person has a disease that might produce excess amounts of vitamin D, such as sarcoidosis or some forms of lymphoma (because immune cells may make 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D).
When vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, or magnesium supplementation is necessary, vitamin D levels are sometimes measured to monitor treatment effectiveness.