Research published in Oman Medical Journal has found that people with systemic lupus erythematosis, or SLE, have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency during times of active disease ‘flare.’
SLE is a disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s cells and tissues resulting in inflammation and tissue damage, which can affect any part of the body. The course of the disease is often unpredictable, with periods of illness flares alternating with remissions. Due to a lack of data, the number of people with lupus is currently unknown. Estimates range from 330,000 to over a million people with lupus in the United States alone.
Previous research has revealed that vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in patients with SLE. Susan Attar and Aisha Siddiqui set out to examine the relationship between vitamin D status and disease activity in patients with SLE.
The researchers collected information on age, gender, duration of the disease, markers of inflammation from disease, and vitamin D status of 95 patients with SLE. The authors found that of the participants only 12 patients had vitamin D levels above 20 ng/ml. About 50% of the patients had vitamin D levels below 10 ng/ml, extremely deficient by our standards.
They discovered vitamin D deficiency in 90% of participants who had active SLE and in 85% of patients with inactive disease. Mean vitamin D status of patients with active disease was 8.9 ng/ml compared to 10 ng/ml in patients with inactive disease (p=0.04). The authors also report that low levels of C3 and C4, associated with high disease activity, were strong predictors for vitamin D deficiency.
“Multiple risk factors have been associated with this deficiency, namely: sun avoidance as sunlight flares SLE,” the authors explain. They also point out that use of drugs for SLE enhance vitamin D metabolism, most likely contributing to the deficiency. Also, this research was conducted in Saudi Arabia, where vitamin D deficiency is reported in the majority of healthy women.
A recent study evaluated the effective daily dose to achieve vitamin D repletion in deficient patients with SLE. After 12 weeks of daily vitamin D supplementation, vitamin D levels >20 ng/ml were achieved in 67% of patients who received 4,000 IU of vitamin D. The author suggested that 2,000 IU vitamin D daily was the minimum effective dose for vitamin D repletion in SLE patients.
Do you have a loved one with SLE, and if so, do they supplement with vitamin D?