Severe Multiple Sclerosis Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency
Researchers have found a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels and the severity of symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder affecting the brain and nerves, characterized by attacks of symptoms that include numbness, weakness, and blurring of vision. In this condition, the individual’s own immune system attacks the myelin which coats the brain and nerves, thus interfering with nerve transmission. These are seen in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques as white spots or lesions that represent inflammation.
The study which was led by Ellen M. Mowry, M.D., M.C.R., an assistant professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was recently published in Annals of Neurology.
While previous studies evaluating the association of vitamin D levels with relapses of MS relied on patient reports on their symptoms, this study gathered evidence using blood samples and MRIs that measured the association of the two variables. The investigators examined 469 MS patients and followed them since 2004. Results showed that patients with lower vitamin D levels were more likely to form new lesions (a sign of active disease) as shown in their MRIs and as seen in the worsening of symptoms. On the other hand, those with higher vitamin D levels were less likely to suffer from subsequent disability or to show new lesions in their MRIs.
Currently there is no cure for multiple sclerosis and treatment is focused on reducing symptoms and reducing the number of attacks. Dr. Mowry warns that there is no evidence yet if taking vitamin D supplements can help relieve symptoms or reduce attacks or if using large doses will help without harming the patients. They believe more research is necessary to determine the benefits of vitamin D supplementation on these patients.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Low vitamin D levels linked to more severe multiple sclerosis symptoms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 3, 2012.