In a recent study, presented during the European League Against Rheumatism Annual European Congress of Rheumatology, a group of Egyptian researchers compared vitamin D levels between patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and healthy individuals. The results were clear: vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is present in SLE patients and vitamin activity is negatively correlated with disease activity.
SLE is a is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when one’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. The specific causes of this behavior are still unknown but it is acknowledged that some drugs like Isoniazid, Hydralazine and Procainamide can induce SLE development. The pathology’s symptoms include joint pain, chest pain, fatigue, fever with no other cause, hair loss, among others.
The research team preformed a cross-sectional and observational study in a population of 60 SLE patients and 30 healthy individuals, matching sex and age. Participants were assessed for indicators like serum levels of 25(OH)D, the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI), Systemic Lupus International Collaborative Clinics/American College of Rheumatology (SLICC/ACR) damage index (SDI), and visual analogue scale (VAS) for fatigue. By observation, vitamin D efficiency was set as serum 25(OH)D levels of 10ng/mL or below and insufficiency was established between 10ng/mL and 30 ng/mL.
When researchers compared serum 25(OH)D levels, there was a considerable difference between study groups, as healthy individuals had values around 79 ng/mL while lupus patients had levels of roughly 17.6 ng/mL. Moreover, general vitamin insufficiency was detected in 73,3% of the patients whereas deficiency was verified in 23,3% of SLE patients. The levels of SLEDAI and fatigue showed an interesting negative correlation with the low levels of vitamin in the body that remained after adjustment to clinical variables.
Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining proper bone structure and exerts a great influence on immune functions since it is produced by a chemical reaction made possible by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet B rays. Because people with lupus may need to avoid sun exposure, this can increase the risk for vitamin D insufficiency, which may lead to kidney failure and eventual treatment with steroids.
“Routine screening and consequent repletion of vitamin D if needed is recommended in SLE,” the researchers wrote. “Restoring adequate vitamin D levels in SLE should be more explored as a potential and simple, yet valuable, measure to be added to their usual management to alleviate their condition.” stated study author Shirley Pulawski.