Rheumatoid arthritis in fingers / Photo by: david__jones via Flickr
The researchers from the University of Birmingham discovered that vitamin D can be effective in preventing inflammatory diseases.However, once the inflammatory disease has settled, vitamin D becomes ineffective.Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can make immune cells in the joint insensitive against effects of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble secosteroid, a type of steroid, required by the body to absorb essential nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphate.The most important chemical compounds of vitamin D are cholecalciferol or vitamin D3 and ergocalciferol or vitamin D2, which can be obtained from food sources and vitamin supplements.A study published in August 2012 led by Dr.Cynthia Aranow revealed that immune cells have vitamin D receptors.The study also found that vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive responses of the immune system.
The vitamin plays an important role in several functions of the body.It:
- Keeps the bones and teeth healthy.
- Helps maintain insulin levels.
- Supports the immune system and the nervous system.
- Sustains cardiovascular health and lung functionality.
- Influences the gene expression related to cancer development.
The Birmingham University researchers also discovered that the impact of vitamin D on the inflammatory diseases is unpredictable.Because the cells affected by the inflammatory disease are different from healthy cells.The findings concluded that physicians may prescribe high doses of vitamin D for rheumatoid arthritis patients.Physicians may also need to provide a treatment for the vitamin D insensitivity.
"Our current understanding of vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis is based on studies of patient blood which may not truly represent the situation at the site of inflammation – the joints.Compared to blood from the same patients, the inflamed joint immune cells were much less sensitive to active vitamin D.This appears to be because immune cells from the joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients are more committed to inflammation, and therefore less likely to change, even though they have all the machinery to respond to vitamin D," said Martin Hewison, a professor at the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research at Birmingham University.
The researchers are now planning to commit to a new study to figure out why rheumatoid arthritis leads to vitamin D insensitivity.
About one percent of the world's population is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.More than 300,000 children in the US are afflicted by the juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.People with rheumatoid arthritis have a shorter life expectancy than normal people by up to 15 years.
Causes and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the cells of the immune system attack the joints of the patient.The attack causes inflammation that leads to thickening of the tissues insides the joints or synovium.The thickening causes swelling and pain around the affected joints.Synovium is the fluid responsible for lubricating the joints to make them move smoothly.Untreated joint inflammation can lead to joint damage and deformity.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include stiffness of the joints that usually feel worse in the mornings, fever, fatigue, weight loss, and tenderness or swelling joints.Some people have other clinical presentations of symptoms not related to the joints.These symptoms affect other body parts, such as the eyes, heart, kidneys, skin, lungs, nerve tissue, and blood vessels.
Some risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing the disease:
- Women have higher chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis than men.
- People with ages between 40 and 60.
- A family history of rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk.
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking.
- Being overweight or obesity.
- Exposures to certain chemicals, such as asbestos or silica.
If the disease becomes severe, it can cause several health complications, such as osteoporosis or bone weakness, Sjogren's syndrome or dryness of the eyes and mouth, heart problems, lymphoma or cancer of the lymphatic system, and susceptibility to infections.
Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
There is no cure available for rheumatoid arthritis.But there are treatments that can help manage and slow down the symptoms.Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs have been found effective against early stages of rheumatoid arthritis.
1.Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are used to relieve inflammation and pain.Known side effects include upset stomach, liver and kidney damage, and heart problems.
2.Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or DMARDs slow down the progression of the disease.It also helps prevent permanent damage to the joints and other tissues.Known side effects include severe lung infections and liver damage.
3.Steroids, such as prednisone, are used to slow joint damage and reduce inflammation and pain.Known side effects include weight gain, diabetes, and thinning of the bones.
4.Biologic response modifiers are the newer class of DMARDs designed to target the immune system.It specifically targets the trigger of the inflammatory response of the immune system.It helps prevent permanent damage to the joints but makes the patient vulnerable to infections.
5.Physical therapy may be recommended to keep the joints flexible, while surgery may be required to save joints from damage in case the medications fail to work.