Vitamin D and Osteoarthritis

  • In an effort to reverse osteoarthritis, some people are turning to Vitamin D as the fountain of joint youth. Yes, vitamin D is very important for bone, cell and vascular health. Vitamin D unlocks the power of calcium and adds a boost to the immune system as well. But, is Vitamin D supplementation enough to stop the effects of aging? Maybe not, however supplementation is critical for preventing problems of Vitamin D deficiency. Severe deficiency leads to osteomalacia and Rickets. Mild deficiency may lead to a number of more common conditions like vascular disease, cancer and pain. All of the vitamins are very important to keep the entire body running smoothly including joints.

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    Many researchers have looked at the association between low Vitamin D levels and osteoarthritis. Yet the question remains: Does a low vitamin D level lead to joint deterioration? One recent study evaluated the impact that a two year supplementation program had on symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. After two years, pain and function did not improve despite "normalizing" Vitamin D levels. However, the targeted level (> 30 ng/ml) and length of treatment (2 years) may not have been adequate enough. Higher levels of Vitamin D may help those with mild OA over a longer period of time. Although the relationship between Vitamin D and osteoarthritis remain unclear, those with osteoarthritis should at least have the vitamin D levels checked.

     

    Some have studied the impact that Vitamin D may have on joint replacement in cases of end-stage osteoarthritis. Low Vitamin D levels may increase the risk of poor surgical outcomes. Intuitively, this makes sense because Vitamin D is so critical for bone health and healing. The interface between the implant and the bone has a much better chance of solidifying if Vitamin D levels are within normal range. Because of this potential impact on surgical outcomes, those planning to replace an arthritic joint with an implant should have the Vitamin D level checked.

     

    Even if one does not have osteoarthritis, making sure the Vitamin D levels are normal may help prevent osteoarthritis in the future. Vitamin D may not be the fountain of joint youth, but it is certainly worth a pound of cure. Vitamin D is not going to cure osteoarthritis, nor is it going to insure that joints will not deteriorate. However, Vitamin D is receiving some well deserved attention because too many have been deficient for too long. Vitamin supplementation is a necessary part of preventative medicine.

     

    In my practice, I use 60 ug/ml as a target level for the 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH) D) concentrations (the real Vitamin D level). Those who are below 30 ug/ml are loaded with 8000 IU per day of Vitamin D3 for one month; followed by supplements between 1000 to 2000 IU per day depending on the response. At your next appointment, talk to your doctor about your vitamin D level. Your joints might be glad that you did. To learn more see Pam Flores' interview with Dr. Davis about Vitamin D. You will be very enlightened.

     

Published On: March 25, 2011