3 posts tagged “Vitamin D”

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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Strengthen Your Knowledge During National Osteoporosis Month

Posted May 18th, 2012 by

Of the estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis – which means “porous bones” – 80% of them are women.  That’s why we wanted to shine a spotlight on this condition during National Women’s Health Week.  Approximately one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.  Even more alarming is the fact that 24% of hip fracture patients age 50 and older die in the year following their fracture.

Talk to Your Family About Bone Health During National Osteoporosis Month

Now that you know the facts, it’s time to talk to your family about what you can do to prevent this scenario.  The National Osteoporosis Foundation’s Generations of Strength Campaign encourages women (and men!) to start conversations about bone health and family history during National Osteoporosis Month.  Have either of your parents experienced a broken hip, spine or wrist, for example?  What about height loss or a spine that curves forward (two possible signs of broken bones in the spine)?  Research shows that genetics plays a major role in osteoporosis.  If either of your parents has a history of osteoporosis or broken bones, you are more likely to break a bone.

Do You Have a Parent Who's Experienced Broken Bones, Height Loss or a Forward-Curving Spine?  You May Be at Risk for Osteoporosis.

Fortunately, there are preventive steps you can take.  Thirty years ago, osteoporosis was generally considered a part of normal aging.  But today researchers know a lot more about how to protect your bones throughout your life.  For example, getting enough calcium, vitamin D (which aids calcium absorption) and exercise is very important.  Eating fruits and vegetables is also beneficial to bones.  On the other hand, eating poorly, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and not exercising can cause bone loss.

In addition, researchers now have a way to detect osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs.  It’s called a bone density test, and it measures your bone density in the hip and spine.  That’s because fractures in these areas can cause more serious problems, including longer recovery time, greater pain and even disability.  Using a Central Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) machine, the test usually takes 15 minutes or less.  It is non-invasive and painless.  While it does expose you to radiation, you are exposed to 10-15 times more radiation flying roundtrip between New York and San Francisco.

A Snapshot of the Osteoporosis Community at PatientsLikeMe

If you’re a postmenopausal woman – or a menopausal woman with a family history of osteoporosis or other risk factors – talk to your doctor about whether you should have a bone density test.  Men over the age of 50 should do so as well.  Based on your resulting T-score (the measurement of bone density), your doctor can determine how healthy your bones are and whether you are a candidate for osteoporosis treatments, which can help to improve bone density and even reverse the condition to some degree.  According to the 911 patients with osteoporosis at PatientsLikeMe, some of the most commonly used treatments include Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva.  (Click each treatment name to see how patients evaluate the effectiveness, side effects, cost and more.)

As we wrote at the beginning of the week, women often put their needs secondary to that of their family.  This is an example of how it’s crucial to prioritize your own health.  Because if you break your hip, how well will you be able to care for your family then?