The Sunshine Vitamin May Relieve Diabetic Pain

Vitamin D may help relieve a painful neurological condition in people with diabetes known as neuropathy, according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Neuropathy is a common and painful diabetes complication that causes symptoms such as burning, tingling, and numbness, especially in the legs, feet, arms, and hands. This condition can become debilitating and limit a person’s ability to carry out activities of daily living.

Medications may only partially help relieve pain caused from this condition, leaving a strong need for new treatment options. Studies have shown that vitamin D is important in a number of bodily functions including bone growth, keeping the immune system healthy, and aiding in nerve and muscle function. The authors of this study investigated whether vitamin D supplements may help ease the pain of diabetic neuropathy in vitamin D–deficient people.

D is for diabetes care

In this study, 51 people with type 2 diabetes and neuropathic pain were treated with vitamin D supplements that provided an average daily amount of 2,059 IU. All the participants were felt to have marginally low vitamin D status (defined as a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration of less than 24 ng/ml).

Participants were evaluated for pain initially and after three months of treatment. Three months of treatment with vitamin D led to a significant pain reduction scores on two questionnaires, by 49% and 39% respectively compared with baseline scores. (The mean concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D rose to 30 ng/ml after supplementation.)

“Because the treatment of diabetic neuropathic pain is generally unsatisfying for patients and is associated with significant adverse effects, we advocate a trial of vitamin D supplementation in vitamin D-insufficient patients with neuropathic pain,” said Paul Lee and his colleague from the Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Concord Repatriation General Hospital in Concord, New South Wales.

Watch your levels

The authors believe supplementation is unlikely to have adverse effects at their prescribed dose and may have additional beneficial effects on blood sugar control and bone health. Further research is needed to assess the efficacy, safety, and optimal dose of vitamin D for neuropathic pain.

Vitamin D deficiency may lead to many serious conditions such as bones disorders and even chronic disease such as cancer or multiple sclerosis. People may get more vitamin D through sun exposure, diet, and supplementation. Dietary sources include fish, fish oil, fortified milk, and others. Check with your doctor about the importance of vitamin D in your health regimen.

Jane Hart, MD

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