Many patients with chronic conditions such as lupus can struggle with maintaining proper vitamin levels in their bodies due to disease and medication. Vitamin D and potassium are two that can become greatly affected. Vitamin D has been linked in numerous studies to lupus and other autoimmune diseases and it has also been shown that maintaining optimal vitamin D levels may help to prevent diseases such as lupus. If you have lupus, your potassium level is something that should be monitored because many of the medications and complications associated with lupus can cause high and low potassium levels.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, lupus is an autoimmune disease in which your body’s immune system essentially turns on cells and tissues within your body. The most common form or lupus, systemic lupus erythematosus, affects many areas of the body including joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs and the brain. Lupus is more common in women and there is currently no cure for the disease. Treatment for lupus is designed to control symptoms, reduce disease flare-ups and reduce organ damage. Medications, such as corticosteroids, are used to reduce inflammation.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that is made naturally by the body through skin exposure to ultraviolet B rays from the sun. It can also be found in fortified milk and oily fish such as salmon. It is measured in the blood as 25 hydroxyvitamin D, and according to the Institute of Medicine, the normal range is 30-80 nanograms per milliliter. Vitamin D has been linked to lupus in many studies over the last few years, such as a March 2011 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology that reported a linked between vitamin D deficiency and the disease. Another study on the early diagnosis of lupus published in November 2010 in Autoimmunity Reviews suggests that treatment with vitamin D supplementation at the earliest stages of the disease is beneficial.
Potassium is a mineral and is important for cell function. It is also an electrolyte and works to conduct electricity in the body. As a patient with lupus, you may be taking medications that can cause changes in your potassium levels. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, are used to treat inflammation and can cause potassium levels to rise. Cyclosporine, which is sometimes used to suppress the immune system, can also raise your potassium levels. On the other hand, medications such as corticosteroids, which are used to treat lupus, can cause a decrease in your potassium levels. If you are taking any of these medications, it is important to discuss your potassium levels with your physician.
As with any vitamins and vitamin supplementation, it is important that you talk to your doctor about possible vitamin deficiencies your lupus or medications may cause. Your doctor will be able to monitor your blood levels of vitamin D and potassium and will be able to determine if you need supplementation. He will be able to create a treatment plan that best suits you, your disease and your current list of medications.
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: Lupus; October 2009
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin D
- Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology: "The Immunopathological Role of Vitamin D in Patients With SLE: Data From a Single Centre Registry in Hungary"; P. Szodoray et al; March 2011
- Autoimmunity Reviews: "SLE Diagnosis and Treatment: When Early Is Early"; A. Doria et al; November 2010
- Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium; Jane Higdon, PhD; February 2004