Phosphorus deficiency is a condition in which an individual fails to consume or properly use the amount of phosphorus necessary to stay healthy. Phosphorus is a mineral that is very important in the proper formation of bones and teeth; it is also involved in a wide variety of other chemical reactions throughout the body. Phosphorus is very common in many different kinds of food, so phosphorus deficiency tends to be quite rare. It is not, however, impossible, as there are some medical conditions that prevent the body from absorbing the correct amount of phosphorus. Most of the problems associated with this deficiency involve development and maintenance problems with muscles and bones.
Though it is rare, phosphorus deficiency can occur in several ways. For example, phosphorus is generally present in adequate amounts in plants that are commonly used for food. In some cases, however, the soil the plants are grown in is deficient in phosphorus; this can lead to a deficiency in phosphorus in populations that depend on these specific crops for food. In most cases, fertilizers are used to compensate for the lack of minerals in the soil. In some cases, however, this is not practical and other factors prevent proper mineral absorption. For patients with medical conditions that prevent or inhibit the absorption of phosphorus, doctors can prescribe supplements and dietary changes to help correct the problem.
Symptoms of phosphorus deficiency usually involve issues relating to the growth and development of muscles and bones. Weight loss and decreases in bone density commonly result from a deficiency in phosphorus; muscle weakness and breathing problems are also not uncommon. Deficiency can also increase susceptibility to some diseases that can cause a significant amount of damage. In particularly severe cases, breathing problems, heart problems, and nervous system disorders can begin to appear; if left untreated, this can lead to death. Common early signs of deficiency include increased stress, numbness of the skin, fatigue, bone problems, and a variety of other uncomfortable and unpleasant issues.
In general, it is easy to avoid this deficiency because phosphorus is very common in many different kinds of food. Meats and dairy foods, for example, contain plenty of phosphorus, and adequate amounts of meat and dairy in one's diet are typically sufficient to prevent deficiency in people who can absorb phosphorus normally. Consuming too much dairy, meat, and other sources of phosphorus can actually lead to phosphorus toxicity, which can lead to twitching and, in severe cases, to convulsions. This is also rare, though, as excess phosphorus is almost always excreted in the urine before it can cause any harm.