Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease in which the fatty sheaths around the nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged, leading to a broad array of signs and symptoms. Disease onset usually occurs in young adulthood, and it is more common in women. Almost any neurological symptom can appear with the disease, and often progresses to physical and mental disability. MS takes several forms, with new symptoms occurring either in discrete attacks or slowly worsening over time. Between attacks, symptoms may go away completely, but permanent neurological problems usually occur, especially as the disease advances.
Dr Barbara van Amerongen of the University Medical Center in Amsterdam, recently wrote an interesting and detailed case report of a dentist who developed multiple sclerosis.
van Amerongen BM, Feron F. Effect of high-dose vitamin d3 intake on ambulation, muscular pain and bone mineral density in a woman with multiple sclerosis: a 10-year longitudinal case report. Int J Mol Sci. 2012 Oct 19;13(10):13461-83.
Like so many others, the patient began to develop symptoms of MS in her late-30s, when she had tingling in her left hand and tongue and lack of coordination and pain in her right leg. Two different neurologists confirmed the diagnosis of MS and her brain scan revealed multiple lesions. She had always loved to walk and her ability to walk steadily decreased from about 8 miles a day to less than ½ mile per day and that was with considerable musculoskeletal pain.
By the time she was 45, she was debilitated by pain, weakness, and balance problems. In 2001, she started taking 800 IU/day of vitamin D on her own, and noticed some improvement. She increased the vitamin D to 4,000 IU/day in 2004 and started spending the Dutch winters in Singapore, which is close to the equator (although the paper does not say if she started sunbathing in Singapore).
She increased her vitamin D to 6,000 IU/day a few years later. Her walking ability began to return and by 2005, she could walk 2 miles per day and in a few years, was back up to 7 miles per day. Her other symptoms apparently went into remission. Her neurologist noted no relapses of her MS while she was on the vitamin D and spending her winters on the equator.
That being said, MS can go away on its own. This apparently happened to Ann Romney (after she started riding horses outside in the sun). However, most people with MS suffer an agonizing deterioration of their physical and mental abilities. We will never know what was in store for this woman had she not raised her vitamin D levels with supplementation and sun exposure.
A single case report proves nothing, but I like happy endings. I found it interesting that the authors point out that an increasing number of neurologists are recommending 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D to their MS patients. Now, all we have to do is have those same neurologists recommend the same amount to all their other patients.