Incidents of Lyme disease have increased in recent years, increasing the need for awareness about this serious health condition. The National Center for Zoonotic Vector-Borne and Enteric Diseases estimate that there were over 248,000 cases of reported Lyme disease from 1992 to 2006. The 2006 cases exceeded the 1992 figures by over 100 percent. While vitamin D deficiency is not as common, the connection and similarities between the two conditions warrant closer investigation.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted by ticks. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you may be vulnerable, especially if you do not apply a tick repellent when in brushy or wooded areas. The disease manifests itself first with the classic bulls-eye rash in most people, explains Mayo Clinic. Left untreated, the disease can lead to muscle weakness, joint pain and neurological damage.
Vitamin D Deficiency
An obvious connection between a vitamin D deficiency and Lyme disease is the similarity of symptoms. A person deficient in vitamin D may experience muscle weakness and pain, not unlike Lyme disease. However, a homebound individual is more likely to be suffering from a deficiency due to lack of sun exposure than Lyme disease contracted while outdoors.
Because of their similar symptoms, there may be a link between vitamin D intake and prevention of complications associated with Lyme disease. Up to 20 percent of individuals who contract lyme disease may develop arthritis, warns the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. A 2007 study in the Indonesian journal, "Acta medica Indonesiana," found that vitamin D could help to prevent the onset of arthritis associated with Lyme disease.
Sources of Vitamin D
Sun exposure is one of the best ways to get your recommended intake of 200 IU of vitamin D. Just 20 minutes sun exposure will provide you with more than the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D, explains the Vitamin D Council. It follows then that if you will be outside, you will also need to take steps to reduce your risk of Lyme disease.
You can prevent Lyme disease by taking preventive measures before going outdoors. A DEET-containing tick preventive will deter ticks. Ticks are most active during the warmer months of the year, making prevention necessary whenever going outdoors. Even if you do not routinely walk in grassy areas, you may still contract Lyme disease even in your own backyard. You can significantly remove your chances of getting the disease by removing ticks promptly. Keeping brush at bay in your yard will also remove habitat for ticks and give you a degree of protection.
- National Center for Zoonotic Vector-Borne and Enteric Diseases: Surveillance for Lyme Disease --- United States, 1992--2006
- Mayo Clinic: Lyme Disease
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin D
- "Acta medica Indonesiana"; Vitamin D and Autoimmune Disease; E. Ginanjar et al; July 2007
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Lyme Disease
- Vitamin D Council: Understanding Vitamin D Cholecalciferol