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The Link Between Vitamin D Deficiency & Psoriasis

By Cynthia Myers

Psoriasis affects your skin, resulting in scaly patches or lesions that may be reddened and raised. Doctors classify psoriasis as an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system triggers the overproduction of skin cells. One treatment for psoriasis, UV light therapy, raises levels of vitamin D in your body. Topical vitamin D creams also help to relieve the symptoms of psoriasis. The way your body processes vitamin D might play a role in psoriasis, but resolving a vitamin D deficiency does not resolve psoriasis.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Psoriasis

In June 2011, the Endocrine Society issued new guidelines for vitamin D supplementation, saying that vitamin D deficiency is common in all age groups. People with psoriasis may also test low for levels of vitamin D, but this deficiency does not appear to be a cause of their disease. When researchers at Silpoint Centre in British Columbia tested the blood levels of people who suffered from autoimmune diseases, including psoriasis, they determined that there was little association between vitamin D deficiency and other markers characteristic to autoimmune diseases. In fact, many people in the study had higher levels than normal of D3, which might indicate a malfunction of the vitamin D receptors in these patients.

Light Therapy

Doctors often treat psoriasis with ultraviolet light therapy. Exposing the skin to UV light heals lesions and relieves redness. UV light is the same light your body uses to manufacture vitamin D. In 2008 and 2009, when researchers at Dublin's St. Vincent's University Hospital studied 60 psoriasis sufferers, they found that those who had UV light therapy three times a weeks saw their psoriasis symptoms resolve and the levels of vitamin D in their blood almost double. But the doctors felt the increased levels of vitamin D were due to exposure to UV light, and that the light, not the vitamin D, had resolved the patients' symptoms. Increased vitamin D was an added benefit of the light therapy.

Topical Vitamin D

Applying topical vitamin D creams to the skin is another effective treatment for vitamin D. Calcipotriene is one medication that contains vitamin D. In the November 2002 issue of "Cutis," researcher J. Koo from University of California's Department of Dermatology reported that calcipotriene was an effective treatment for scalp psoriasis, especially when used in combination with more traditional steroid treatments. Patients could use less of the steroids along with the vitamin D cream. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that vitamin D creams appear to work by inhibiting skin cell reproduction.

Other Considerations

A balanced diet that includes adequate vitamin D from fortified dairy products and fish can contribute to your overall health. Your doctor can order a blood test to determine if you have low levels of vitamin D. If so, you may benefit from a supplement, but don't take supplements without first consulting your doctor. She may also be able to subscribe vitamin D creams, light therapy or other treatments for your psoriasis.

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