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Low vitamin D levels linked to increased disease disability in optic nerve damage

Low vitamin D levels linked to increased disease disability in optic nerve damage

A new study has found that patients with neuromyelitis optica have lower vitamin D levels than healthy controls and that low vitamin D levels are associated with an increase in disease related disability.

Neuromyelitis otpica (NMO) is a medical condition in which the optic nerve and spinal cord become inflamed and damaged. NMO has many different causes, with no known cure. Certain cases of NMO can be considered an autoimmune disease when the immune system mistakenly attacks a protein that the body makes.

There is an extensive amount of scientific literature that shows patients with autoimmune diseases have lower vitamin D levels and that within these patients, lower vitamin D levels correlate with increased disease related disability and disease activity.

Therefore, researcher working out of the United Kingdom and South Korea wanted to investigate the relationship between autoimmune NMO, vitamin D status, and disability related to NMO.

They collected blood samples from 51 autoimmune NMO patients and 204 healthy controls and compared the vitamin D levels between the two groups.

The researchers then recorded the disease related disability in NMO patients by using the expanded disability status scale (EDSS). EDSS is a method of quantifying disability in NMO patients.

Results showed vitamin D levels were significantly lower in NMO patients compared to healthy controls and that vitamin D levels were negatively associated with EDSS scores, meaning patients with lower vitamin D levels had greater disease related disability.

“It remains to be determined whether low vitamin D levels predispose to NMO and/or modify disease severity, or are secondary to neurological disability. In either case the results could also be of relevance to other neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis as well as NMO,” the researchers concluded.

The researchers call for future studies that administer vitamin D supplementation to patients with NMO and see how it affects the development of the disease.


Min, J. et al. Low Levels of Vitamin D in Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder: Association with Disease Disability. PLOS ONE, 2014.

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