The number of children with vitamin D deficiency has risen 200% in just 5 years, according to reports from children’s health research studies. The National Health & Nutrition Examination survey found that an alarming 70% of children ages 6-11 are deficient in vitamin D.

We speak about this critical health issue all the time with our patients and their parents. There’s a host of health issues associated with vitamin D deficiency, and this is true for humans of all ages, but especially for our growing kids.

Recent studies like this one reported in Nature Magazine suggest a strong link between dry eye and vitamin D deficiency. We advise our patient parents to treat dry eye if it occurs since, as noted in this article from the American Optometric Association, “advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision.”

A recent ‘meta study’ (a survey of multiple research studies) shows that deficient levels of vitamin D are possibly related to early Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).  In this MedScape report the authors write, “The findings of the present meta-analysis strengthen the idea that there might be a link between vitamin D deficiency and AMD, notably at the late stages of the disease …It may therefore be possible that correction of vitamin D deficiency could improve the prognosis of AMD.”

At Treehouse Eyes we monitor the mounting research (you can visit our Myopia Resource Center here) which continues to suggest a strong causal link between the lack of outdoor play (and exposure to sunlight) to the myopia epidemic spreading among children worldwide. Vitamin D is one of the only vitamins our bodies can actually make on their own, with a little help from the sun. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays triggers your child’s body to synthesize vitamin D on its own. Research suggests that as much as 80% of the vitamin D in most of us, is self-produced in this fashion.

Every day we reinforce with our patient families the need for them to make time in their child’s busy day for more outdoor play. But in the winter, when the sun is low in the sky in our northern hemisphere, there isn’t enough direct sunlight to aid the body in vitamin synthesis.

So what’s a parent to do to make sure their child is getting the vitamin D they need to grow up healthy?  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children from 12 months on need between 600 and 1,000 IUs of vitamin D each day. Foods high in natural vitamin D include tuna, mackerel, salmon and beef liver; orange juice, soy milk and cereals; as well as cheese, eggs and butter.

Sometimes we recommend to Treehouse Eyes parents they consider giving their children vitamin D supplements, if they are tested and found to be deficient. Be sure to give your child vitamin D3 if they need a vitamin D supplement for deficiency. It’s a good idea for parents to monitor their child’s levels of vitamin D and then take smart steps with diet, outside play or supplements if they’re deficient.

Should you have any questions about your child’s vision health and vitamin D, we invite you to contact us here. If your child is myopic and you’d like more information about how you can finally stop or even slow its course, please visit our page here.