Low vitamin D common with rheumatic diseases

PARIS (Reuters Health) - Nearly three quarters of patients seen at a rheumatology clinic, which focuses on diseases affecting the joints, muscles, bones, and tendons, have a vitamin D deficiency, researchers based in Ireland found.

Dr. Muhammad Haroon and associates at South Infirmary-Victoria University Hospital, Cork, assessed the occurrence of vitamin D deficiency in all new patients seen at their rheumatology clinic between January and June 2007. The research team’s findings were reported at the European Union League Against Rheumatism 2008 meeting here in Paris.

Of 264 patients seen during this time period, 231 agreed to have their levels of vitamin D measured and other related tests performed.

Overall, 162 patients (70 percent) had low vitamin D levels and 26 percent had a severe deficiency. Little difference was seen in the percentage of younger and older patients who were deficient.

Severe vitamin D deficiency affected a significant percentage of patients with a variety of conditions, including inflammatory joint diseases, rheumatism, arthritis, backache, and osteoporosis.

According to Haroon, chronic severe vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis and the bone-softening disease osteomalacia, while a mild-to-moderate deficiency may contribute to non-specific rheumatic complaints, he said.