Rheumatoid arthritis: Taking a certain vitamin could help to reduce your risk

Arthritis comes in many forms but the most common in the UK is osteoarthritis, which affects nearly nine million people. Osteoarthritis initially affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint. This makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness. According to studies taking vitamin D could help reduce your risk of developing the condition later in life.

Research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered that maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may help to prevent the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.

Another key finding of the research was that the impact of vitamin D on inflammatory disease cannot be predicted using cells from healthy individuals or even from the blood of patients with inflammation as cells from the disease tissue are very different.

The researchers concluded that if vitamin D is to be used in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, clinicians may need to prescribe much higher doses than currently employed or provide a treatment that also corrects the vitamin D insensitivity of immune cells within the joint.

In a study published in Wiley Online Library, serum levels of vitamin D sunlight exposure and knee cartilage loss in older adults was investigated.

The study noted: “Serum levels of 25‐hydroxyvitamin D were assessed by radioimmunoassay, and sunlight exposure was assessed by questionnaire.

“T1‐weighted fat‐suppressed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the right knee was performed to determine knee cartilage volume and defects.

“Knee radiographic osteoarthritis (OA) and knee pain were also assessed.

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“Sunlight exposure and serum 25(OH)D levels are both associated with decreased knee cartilage loss.

“Both osteoarthritis (OA) and vitamin D insufficiency are common health conditions in older people.

“Approximately 25 percent of people aged 55 years have had knee pain on most days in a month in the past year, of which about half have radiographic knee OA and thus are considered to have symptomatic OA.”

“This is best observed using the whole range of 25(OH)D levels rather than predefined cut points and implies that achieving vitamin D sufficiency may prevent and/or retard cartilage loss in knee OA.” 

Dr Louisa Jeffery, also of the University of Birmingham, said: “Our research indicates that maintaining sufficient vitamin D may help to prevent the onset of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

“However, for patients who already have rheumatoid arthritis, simply providing vitamin D might not be enough. Instead much higher doses of vitamin D may be needed, or possibly a new treatment that bypasses or corrects the vitamin D insensitivity of immune cells within the joint.”

According to the NHS, in the spring and summer months, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from natural sunlight exposure, but taking a daily supplement of 10mcg of vitamin D is recommended during the autumn and winter months.

According to the health body, exceeding the recommended amount can pose health risks, however.

Signs of arthritis

Pain from arthritis can be constant or it may come and go, said the Arthritis Foundation.

The health site added: “It may occur when at rest or while moving.

“Pain may be in one part of the body or in many different parts.

“Some types of arthritis cause the skin over the affected joint to become red and swollen, feeling warm to the touch.

“Swelling that lasts for three days or longer or occurs more than three times a month should prompt a visit to the doctor.”

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