Affecting around 1.3 million American adults and one percent of the world’s population, rheumatoid arthritis develops when the immune system attacks the healthy tissue in your body accidentally, normally in your joints.
This autoimmune disease is characterized by painful inflammation and swelling. It can affect several joints at once, with sufferers often complaining of pain in their wrists, hands and knees. In the early stages, it causes inflammation in the lining of the joint, but it damages the joint itself as it progresses. For some people, this can cause not only persistent pain but also problems with balance and even deformities.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham and University College London analyzed the blood and joint fluid taken from patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Given the potent anti-inflammatory action of vitamin D, the researchers wanted to find out how it would work at the site of the active disease. Past studies focused on immune cells that had been isolated from blood.
This study was the first one to use immune cells that were taken from the blood as well as the inflamed joints of 15 rheumatoid arthritis sufferers between the ages of 40 and 85. This joint fluid, which is known as synovial fluid, is a sticky and thick liquid that serves as a lubricant, reducing the friction between bones when they meet at joints. The blood samples from the rheumatoid arthritis sufferers and the control group without the illness were matched by age and gender.
After testing how the immune cells in the various samples reacted to vitamin D, the researchers discovered that different types of immune cells had different responses.
Their findings support the idea that proper levels of vitamin D could help to prevent not only rheumatoid arthritis but also other inflammatory diseases. At the same time, however, taking vitamin D supplements does not seem likely to help those who already have the illness because their immune cells appear to already be desensitized. The researchers theorized that current sufferers might benefit from much higher vitamin D doses or other types of treatment that could bypass or correct the vitamin D insensitivity noted in the immune cells found within the joint.
Next, the researchers would like to find out precisely why rheumatoid arthritis makes immune cells insensitive to vitamin D and how it can be prevented. They’d also like to investigate whether similar effects can be seen in other inflammatory conditions.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy muscles, bones, and teeth. A global study that was published this year showed it can reduce a person’s risk of flu, colds and infections like pneumonia. Deficiencies are shockingly common, and some experts are also calling for the recommended daily intake of the vitamin to be raised.
Spending time in the sun is one of the best ways to encourage your body to produce more vitamin D. Around 15 to 30 minutes a day depending on your skin tone is enough, but you’ll want to skip the sunscreen; sunblock with SPF 30 can reduce your body’s ability to produce the vitamin by 99 percent.
You can also get it from supplements or foods like oily fish, although it’s difficult to get enough of this vitamin from diet alone.
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