13 posts from March, 2018

Lupus and vitamin D deficiency – get the lowdown

Posted March 8th, 2018 by

Vitamin D is nicknamed “the sunshine vitamin” because catching some rays on bare skin triggers your body to produce it naturally.

But what if lupus-related sun sensitivity (not to mention the winter weather) restricts your sun exposure? Take a peek at some key info on vitamin D deficiency, plus learn some dietary sources of this important nutrient.

What are the effects of limited sunlight?

Vitamin D deficiency is a common health issue in general, and reduced exposure to sunlight is one of the main factors. Researchers estimate that almost 50% of the world’s population – across all ethnicities and age groups – have a vitamin D deficiency. When the sun’s rays hit bare skin, it signals the body to produce its own vitamin D.

Getting vitamin D via sunshine can be especially tricky for some people with lupus who are taking steps to limit sun exposure or protect the skin with sunscreen and clothing. Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or artificial light sources can make lupus worse in 40 to 70% of people with the condition, according to Lupus.org. Sunlight may exacerbate skin disease or skin-related symptoms in people with lupus, such as the “butterfly” rash, discoid lesions and photosensitivity.

Not everyone with lupus is affected by skin problems or sun sensitivity, so completely avoiding sunlight may not always be necessary. Talk with your doctor about sun safety and healthy levels of sunlight, in your case, as well as other factors in vitamin D deficiency (such as darker skin, kidney problems and obesity) and other good sources of vitamin D (read on!).

Why is vitamin D important?

Vitamin D plays an important role for all people. Here are just a few of the health benefits for the general population:

  • Helps the intestine absorb calcium
  • Supports bone health and helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Helps with muscle movement and nerve function
  • Supports immune function and reduction of inflammation

For those with lupus, vitamin D is also vital because:

  • Low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of kidney complications or kidney failure
  • Some initial research shows that vitamin D may play a role in controlling lupus symptoms and bolstering kidney function (but more research is needed on the role of vitamin D in lupus treatment)

What are some other sources of vitamin D?

Talk with your doctor about testing your blood level of vitamin D and the best sources of this nutrient for you. For the general population, good sources of vitamin D beyond sun exposure include:

  • Foods that contain it naturally, such as the flesh of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna (small amounts are also found in beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms)
  • Foods fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, yogurt and cereal (fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet)
  • Oral vitamin D2 or D3 supplements, taken as directed by a doctor, usually in the case of vitamin D deficiency. Talk with your provider before taking a new supplement.

The most common test for vitamin D deficiency is called 25-Hydroxyvitamin D (or ’25-OH Vit D’).

How do you get your vitamin D? Add a comment or join PatientsLikeMe today to talk about this topic with 10,000+ members living with lupus.

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The lowdown on generic MS medications

Posted March 6th, 2018 by

From FDA approvals to availability and safety, generic drugs are a popular topic in the PatientsLikeMe MS forum (more than 15 threads!). To help you stay in the loop about what generics are and what’s out there for MS, we checked in with our team of in-house health professionals. Here’s the scoop…

Let’s start with the basics: What are generic drugs?

According to the FDA, “a generic drug is a medication created to be the same as an existing approved brand-name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, and performance characteristics.”

So what sets the brand-name versions apart?

Generic and brand-name medications work the same way and provide the same clinical benefit. Generic medications have the same active ingredients as brand-name medications, but generics only become available after the patent expires on a first-of-its-kind (brand name) drug.

Coming soon:

  • Ampyra (dalfampridine), the only FDA-approved drug indicated to improve walking in adults with MS, is anticipated to have generic versions available sometime in summer 2018.

Currently available MS generic drugs:

  • Glatopa: Glatopa 40 mg/mL is an FDA-approved generic version of Copaxone 40 mg/mL for patients with relapsing forms of MS. Glatopa has been determined by the FDA to be therapeutically equivalent to three times-a-week Copaxone, and is a fully-substitutable medication. Glatopa is available by prescription.
  • Glatiramer acetate: 20 mg/mL (daily) and glatiramer acetate 40 mg/mL (3x weekly). These two FDA-approved injections are also generic versions of Copaxone, and can be expected to be as safe and clinically effective. Both are available by prescription.

On the horizon:

  • Gilenya‘s patent is set to expire in 2019, opening up the path to generic versions soon after.

Want to learn more about what members are saying about their experiences with generic MS medications? Join the conversation on PatientsLikeMe.

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