Severe Vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic affecting up to 85% of Americans, putting them at risk for cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis, and chronic pain. Vitamin D deficiency may cause a bone disease called osteomalacia and can be a precursor to osteoporosis. Osteomalacia is similar to rickets, as it softens the bones. When you add this with long-term Prednisone use like many Myositis patients require, and you find double trouble.
Many of us with autoimmune diseases such as dermatomyositis and Lupus must avoid the sun, an excellent natural source of Vitamin D, to prevent flares, rashes, and breakouts. Making up for this loss may be difficult even with diet and supplements.
So, how do you find out if you are deficient?
Good news! It is simple to find out if you are vitamin D deficient. It only requires your doctor write an order for lab work (vitamin D level) and for you to have a quick blood draw. Soon after you will know whether or not you may require vitamin D therapy.
Vitamin D therapy typically consists of monthly injections or weekly, large-dose, prescription vitamin D tablets. Endocrinologists are usually the “go to” specialists in handling this, however, any physician should be able to treat you.
Why would I be deficient?
There are a couple likely scenarios in which you may find yourself vitamin D deficient. If you are on a strict vegan diet or do not eat a well-balanced diet, you may find you are at a higher risk. Natural sources of vitamin D are found in animal-based sources such as fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheese, fortified milk, and beef liver. If you are not consuming enough of these sources you may find diet is the reason for not getting enough vitamin D.
Limited or no exposure to sunlight is another likely scenario. If you have certain chronic illnesses or you are on medications that prevent you from being in the sun, you may find you have a higher risk of being vitamin D deficient. Sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D; when your skin is exposed to sunlight, your body makes vitamin D.
While diet and sun exposure may be potentials, for other people if may be that their bodies are just not absorbing vitamin D properly.
Are there symptoms?
It is quite common to not have any obvious symptoms, thus not realizing you are vitamin D deficient. Some people may experience broad symptoms such as depression, asthma, cold and flu symptoms, periodontal disease, and cancer.
I want to get tested! What do I do?
While it should be standard practice for all physicians, the truth is we find that many Myositis patients have never had their Vitamin D level checked. If you are unsure, ask your doctor at your next visit and insist on this simple test. Regulating your vitamin D level may improve your life by increasing your stamina, decreasing pain, and saving your bones from the devastation of osteoporosis.
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