Signs of Phosphorus Deficiency

Kathryn Vera
Stressed man at work

According to Oregon State University, phosphorus is an important mineral that promotes bone mineralization, energy production, and the development of cellular structures. Individuals who are concerned about the development of a possible deficiency should familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of low phosphorus levels.

Risk Factors

Most people get plenty of phosphorus in their diet, so a phosphorus deficiency is fairly rare. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes, however, that those who suffer from diabetes or experience starvation or alcoholism may develop decreases in phosphorus levels.

Health conditions that decrease nutrient absorption - such as Crohn's and celiac disease - can also cause phosphorus levels to drop. Individuals who take certain over-the-counter or prescription medications, including antacids and diuretics, may also be at risk for the development of phosphorus deficiency.

Signs and Symptoms

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, i​ndividuals who experience phosphorus may develop a host of signs and symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite - Loss of appetite is only a serious concern if it lasts for a significant period of time. In Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology (page 197), Marcia Nelms, Kathryn Sucher, and Sara Long encourage adults to contact their healthcare provider if loss of appetite has lasted for more than one week.
  • Mood Disorders - Adults who suffer from phosphorus deficiency may experience a variety of mood disorders, including anxiety and irritability, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. Chronic fatigue - or a near constant state of worry that reduces energy, mental ability and energy levels, according to the Mayo Clinic - is also common in this condition.
  • Irregular Breathing - Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that most adults take between 12 and 16 breaths per minute. Those who take more or less breaths than this, or do so in an irregular pattern, may be suffering from phosphorus deficiency.
  • Bone Disorders - Fragile bones, joint pain, and stiff joints are all common in those who have been diagnosed with phosphorus deficiency, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. Fragile bones, or brittle bone disease, as it is sometimes called, may lead to bone fractures or breaks, notes Healthline.
  • Weakness - According to MedlinePlus, weakness is a reduction in strength in one or more parts of the body. Those who experience sudden weakness, or cannot explain why the weakness is occurring, should seek medical assistance, recommends Medline Plus.
  • Numbness - The Mayo Clinic defines numbness as a loss of feeling or sensation in the body. Burning or tingling may also accompany numbness, and may be present in those who experience phosphorus deficiency.
  • Weight Loss - An unexplained weight loss of more than five percent of your body weight in six months may be cause for concern, reports the Mayo Clinic.

Phosphorous Recommendations

To ensure optimal health and prevent possible deficiency, MedlinePlus encourages individuals to consume the following amounts of phosphorus each day:

  • 0 to 6 months: 100 milligrams
  • 7 to 12 months: 275 milligrams
  • 1 to 3 years: 460 milligrams
  • 4 to 8 years: 500 milligrams
  • 9 to 18 years: 1,250 milligrams
  • Adults 19 years and up: 700 milligrams

The regular consumption of the above-mentioned phosphorus amounts should result in a blood serum level of between 2.5 and 4.5 mg/dL, notes Oregon State University. Phosphorus blood serum levels of less than 2.5 mg/dL are considered deficient, and are cause for concern.

Deficiency Prevention

Though a phosphorus deficiency is uncommon, it is not impossible. To prevent the condition, be sure to meet recommendations for daily intake. Individuals who experience the symptoms of a phosphorus deficiency should seek medical attention as soon as possible. In most cases, the sooner the symptoms are addressed, the easier they will be to treat.

Signs of Phosphorus Deficiency