Vitamin D and arthritis
Vitamin D is essential for bone health. It helps your bones absorb calcium. Vitamin D is also essential for muscle movement, nerve communication, and fighting inflammation. The Arthritis Foundation states that people who use oral steroids are twice as likely to have vitamin D deficiencies than those who don’t. People with arthritis often use oral steroids.
Another study revealed that vitamin D deficiencies are common in people suffering from rheumatoid (RA) and could be related to musculoskeletal problems.
Insufficient vitamin D can lead to:
- affect your immune system
- Reduce calcium and phosphorus levels
- If you’re a woman, your chances of getting RA are higher
Osteoporosis or brittle bones is the main concern with vitamin D deficiency. This condition can lead to bone fractures, pain in the bones, and hearing loss. Learn more about vitamin D deficiencies.
What does vitamin D do to your bones?
Osteoporosis can be caused by vitamin D deficiencies. The Mayo Clinic states that higher doses prednisone (an RA medication) can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis. Your bones lose their density and become weaker, increasing your risk of breaking your bones from accidents such as falls or bumping into things. If you think you might be at risk of osteoporosis, talk to your doctor. Osteoporosis can develop without any symptoms. A bone mineral density test is required to diagnose it.
What should you do if your arthritis is accompanied by a vitamin D deficiency?
- Diet and supplements
For healthy bones, it is important to have enough vitamin D and calcium. This is according to UpToDate and the first step in treating or preventing osteoporosis. Calcium is vital for bone health. Vitamin D protects your bones and helps you absorb calcium. These nutrients are best obtained from food. Low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk and cheese all contain calcium. Vitamin D can be found in fish like tuna and salmon. Fortified breakfast cereals, juices and other foods with calcium and vitamin D can be found.
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Good news is that arthritis and osteoporosis symptoms can be improved by exercising. Supplements and sunlight may not be able to relieve joint inflammation but they can improve muscle health. Some arthritis pain can be eased by strengthening the muscles surrounding the joints. Because stronger muscles support the bones and take some of the pressure off of damaged cartilage, this can help to ease some arthritis symptoms.
Yoga and lifting weights can increase your chances of falling. If you have osteoporosis or arthritis, talk to your doctor about the best exercises for you.
Are vitamin D supplements effective in treating arthritis?
Vitamin D, theoretically speaking, should be beneficial in preventing, slowing down, or reducing arthritis inflammation. Vitamin D supplements are not proven to relieve or prevent arthritis symptoms, although there is mixed evidence. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined whether vitamin D supplements could help. Two-year-olds who had taken vitamin D supplements for two consecutive years showed no improvement in their knee pain.
One study found that vitamin D could help preserve knee cartilage. Research showed that older adults with higher vitamin D levels and more sun exposure had better preserved their knee cartilage. A lower vitamin D level and less exposure to the sun were linked with greater cartilage destruction.
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- Too much vitamin D
Supplements can be taken in excess of vitamin D, although it is rare. Vitamin D toxicity or hypervitaminosis D causes calcium buildup in your blood. These symptoms can include:
- poor appetite
- frequent urination
- kidney problems
Too much sun can cause skin damage. Before you expose yourself to the sun, always use sunscreen with an SPF greater than 15. The National Institutes of Health recommends that you only expose yourself to the sun for a few hours per week, with no sunscreen in the summer. However, sunscreen is still recommended.
Talk to your doctor if you live in an area that gets little sun during winter. If you are already taking vitamin supplements, talk to your doctor to determine how much is needed to maintain a healthy level.