Low vitamin D Levels linked to spinal cord inflammatory disease

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nervous system

Low vitamin D Levels linked to spinal cord inflammatory disease
The immune system and anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin D may also extend to spinal conditions such as transverse myelitis, suggests a new study from Johns Hopkins University.

People who developed recurrent spinal cord disease were significantly more likely to have insufficient and deficient levels of the sunshine vitamin, according to findings published in the Archives of Neurology​.

Whether vitamin D supplements can reduce the frequency of relapses in the people with this recurrent inflammatory spinal cord disease remains to be tested, said the Baltimore-based scientists.

D and the CNS

This is not the first time that vitamin D has been linked to autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS). It is unknown, however, if the vitamin is linked to other diseases of the spinal cord, such as transverse myelitis and neuromyelitis optica.

Transverse myelitis is a disease of the spinal cord that involves the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers, while neuromyelitis optica is a disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that affects the optic nerves and spinal cord.

“Given that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in the development of MS and risk of relapses in those with known MS, this study adds to a growing body of evidence that inadequate vitamin D levels may affect the development and recurrence of other immune-mediated CNS disorders like recurrent transverse myelitis and neuromyelitis optica,” ​wrote Maureen Mealy and her co-workers.

However, it is not known if low vitamin D levels can influence the spinal disorders or if the disorder influences vitamin D status, if indeed there is a direct relationship, said the researchers.

Study details

Mealy and her colleagues analyzed if vitamin D levels were associated with recurrent spinal cord disease in 77 patients with transverse myelitis and neuromyelitis optica.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating that lower vitamin D levels correlate with recurrent spinal cord diseases such as neuromyelitis optica and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders as compared with monophasic spinal cord diseases like idiopathic transverse myelitis [a monophasic or single stage disease].”

The results of the study showed that vitamin D levels were significantly lower in patients who developed recurrent spinal cord disease.

“Our findings suggest that there may be an association between lower total 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in patients with recurrent transverse myelitis/ neuromyelitis optica / neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders as compared with their counterparts with monophasic disease,”​ wrote the researchers.

Mealy and her colleagues said that additional studies are required to further assess this association and whether supplements may provide benefits.

Source: Archives of Neurology
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1001/archneurol.2011.1974
“Low Serum Vitamin D Levels and Recurrent Inflammatory Spinal Cord Disease”
Authors: M.A. Mealy, S. Newsome, B.M. Greenberg, D. Wingerchuk, P. Calabresi, M. Levy

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