Vitamin D

April 6, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments

Thank you to Eileen from Italy for commenting on my last (winging) post, and suggesting that I might be vitamin D deficient, as this could well be a major factor in season affective disorder (SAD). I don’t actually think I suffer from SAD – I was just having a low mood day, and these are rare; however, I started to look into vitamin D and came up with some interesting stuff I thought I’d share.

What is vitamin D for?

Vitamin D is used by the body to absorb phosphorous and calcium from food, and we use calcium and phosphorous to make healthy bone. In children a lack of vitamin D can lead to rickets and in adults it can cause osteomalacia, a softening of the bones leading to pain and tenderness in bone and muscles. It has also been suggested, as Eileen mentioned, that it could be a contributing factor to SAD.

Where does vitamin D come from?

We create vitamin D using direct sunlight on our skin – hmm, there’s been a bit of a lack of that round here lately!

Vitamin D doesn’t just come from sunshine though. You can also find it in oily fish (which includes mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines, herring and anchovies and tuna but not tinned tuna apparently, as the canning process alters its content of oil.) Hmm … I really like salmon and sardines but hardly ever eat them. I eat a fair bit of tinned tuna, but that doesn’t help!

So where else could I get it from? Eggs – nope, very rarely eat eggs. (Perhaps that’s something to do with being a Penguin?) Spreads that have been fortified – erm, nope, hardly ever use spread on anything. Some fortified breakfast cerials – YES! So I checked out my cerials – a 30g portion gives you 25% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Hmm, well I’m trying to lose weight, so I try to have a bit less than 30g so I’m not even getting that 25%.

Anyway, according to this NHS article it’s hard to get it from food alone, and there definitely has been a lack of sun over the last year!

Who’s at risk

Apparently, according to the NHS and Department of Health a number of people are at risk of vitamin D deficiency in the UK and according to this report in The Telegraph vitamin D deficiency is becoming a very significant problem in children.

Adults at risk, and who should probably take supplements, are: “pregnant and breastfeeding women, especially teenagers and young women; people aged 65 years and over; 

  • people who have low or no exposure to the sun, for example those who cover their skin for cultural reasons, who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods;
  • people who have darker skin, for example people of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, because their bodies are not able to make as much vitamin D.” Well I don’t fall into any of those categories in theory, but I’ve been virtually house or office-bound for the last few months due to various flares combined with appalling weather! Also there are a number of studies, including this one suggesting that obesity leads to vitamin D deficiency. Well, I’m not obese but I’m certainly overweight and the study I’ve just linked to shows that deficiency increases in proportion to BMI increase. So … it’s not looking to good for me right now!

 

What to do?

It is possible to get a blood test to see what the vitamin D levels are doing, but frankly I really doubt that my cash-strapped GPs would be interested in doing one! I could pay for one – or I could just think ‘Hey, this makes sense’ and take a supplement. I’ve opted for the latter.

A word of warning about supplements

Hubby and I popped down to the chemist yesterday and had a look at the vast range of supplements available. I was really shocked to discover that even the lowest doses of vitamin D supplement were way, way higher than the RDA. This is probably because, as sensibly suggested by hubby, they’re meant as a boost for people who have really low vitamin D, but since I don’t know where I am level-wise I thought taking the lowest does of vitamin D only supplement, which was 250% of the RDA, still seemed dodgy. So I’ve settled for multivitamins. Even they contain 10o% of RDA of various things including D, but I thought OK, if I’m getting a bit more than 100% it probably doesn’t matter – but 250, 500, 1000% – just seemed a bit crazy.

The danger of a vitamin D ‘overdose’

Vitamin D is not an example of ‘you can’t have too much of a good thing!’ If you have much too much then you can absorb too much calcium, and that can lead to it being deposited in places you really don’t want it – like the kidneys. Excess of vitamin D can also cause calcium to be removed from the bones (don’t ask me why!), which again is not something one wants!

Feeling tons better today – I doubt that relates to two-days-worth of multivitamins (because I don’t think they’ll have kicked in yet), but I suspect it could have a lot to do with two days of sunshine, some warmth in the air, a couple of walks (the first proper walks of the year) and some gardening!

Oof, I’m fed up!

April 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments

Oh dear, I’m not just exhausted, I’m feeling fed up, grumpy, resentful and … erm, just maybe, just possibly, perhaps, an incy-wincy bit hormonal! As to the RA – it’s not bad at all – I haven’t needed paracetamol (Tylenol) for a few days now and my pred taper is finished, so all that’s good. Nothing to be grumpy about, right?

Right! Trouble is, I still am grumpy! I think it stems from two things – one is the weather. (Very British of me to be complaining about the weather, but really, it’s April and it’s snowing. I’ve had ENOUGH snow!) The other is the Easter weekend – or lack of it! I spent most of my Easter weekend installing a new computer at work, connecting it to the internet, networking it to the other PCs, re-installing all the programs I needed on it etc. – and I really could have used a proper break! It didn’t help that I had done all this about three days before when I had the disk wiped on my old PC in the hopes that would give it a bit more life; it didn’t, obviously!

We’re going on holiday in the not too distant future so I’ll get a break – and the weather is supposed to improve at the weekend, but (very unusually for me) I just can’t seem to shake myself out of this low mood.

It doesn’t help that I’m screamingly, ravingly, insanely bored at work today. I don’t think it’s the work – it’s as interesting as ever (and it IS interesting!) but I can’t concentrate and I just want to be somewhere else.

OK, that’s enough whinging – I’m going to give myself a good shake and get back to work now!

Abracadabra – knee flare be GONE!

March 15, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 4 Comments

OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but considering how much pain and discomfort and just plain disability I was suffering from a few days ago, I’m amazed how much better I am! Things were getting ‘worser and worser’, right up until the day after I’d had my first 20mg of prednisolone, and since then they’ve been getting better and better.

Other factors certainly aided in the recovery, including the house being scented with heavenly ‘get well flowers’ from Bro & SIL,a cheerful and cheering visit from my Mum and poor handy hubby on hand to wait on me flipper and foot… but I’m sure the pred has had a major part to play.

The day after my first lot of pred, I was able to bend the knee a bit more but still not really walk on it. The day after that I had MUCH less pain and could hobble about for a short while with my stick. Then I was back to work for half-days, and now, a week-and-a-bit later, I’m back to full-time work, not using the stick at all and feel pretty fine … just so long as I don’t try to walk up stairs normally and don’t try to stay up ‘past my bedtime’ which was about 7:30 pm yesterday!

I’m getting some twinges of backache from the right-hand side, which I suspect is all the heavy leaning on that side while hobbling about before the knee got better, but hopefully that will pass soon!

No side effects that I’m aware of from the steroids, so all’s well at the moment. Hurrah!

Thank you Arthritis Care!

March 15, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments

Massive readership spike today as I was featured in Arthritis Care‘s newsletter. A slightly belated THANK YOU to Arthritis Care for that. I’s quite perked me up! Will try to post later on the latest knee developments, which are all good!

OUCH! Flare

March 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments

This is going to be a very quick post – I’m having a flare in my left knee again. Old news, you may be thinking – but this is the WORST flare of my entire experience of RA. OK, my experience of RA has thankfully been pretty limited and has included, over the five-and-a-bit years since diagnosis, three or four impressive flares in my knee and very little else, but this time it’s different. Why?

  1. I’ve actually taken time off work… so apologies to people I owe emails to who read this blog and write to me on my work email!
  2. Previously I’ve had some serious pain, but it’s been short lived. This time the pain laaaaaaaaaaaaasts.
  3. I’ve got a prednisolone (sp?) taper
  4. I’ve not actually been ‘good’ since Christmas, when I had the last knee flare, since when I’ve had lots of pain in hands and feet … which bizarrely has mostly gone (unless I overdo the crochet) since the knee pain started. Any ideas as to why, anyone? 
  5. I’ve got about four posts I want to write and can’t because I can’t sit in front of the computer long enough! They are:
  • Hubby Knows Best
  • Visit to the GP
  • Learning from our Parents
  • The Art of Patience in Patients

I wonder if I’ll ever get around to writing any of them … or indeed remember what on earth I was on about with the titles, when I’m able to sit up for longer?

Tata for now!

A new drug target identified for RA

January 31, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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A protein called IRHOM2 has been identified as a possible new target for drugs aimed at treating RA, and could be useful for those who do not respond to anti-TNFs or even eventually replace anti-TNFs altogether. The full article on IRHOM2 can be found here, but here’s a short summary.

TNF or tumour necrosis factor has a useful purpose in the body; it is a signalling protein and it signals the body to produce a protective inflammatory response. Thus if a part of you is infected, TNF starts the process of inflammation, which takes immune response cells to the appropriate area in the blood, and they start to attack the disease-causers. In this case inflammation is a good thing.

However, when too much TNF is produced, immune cells start to act on things they shouldn’t, like our joints – leading to RA.

Anti-TNFs attack TNFs directly, and do a mighty fine job for many people, but they are toxic and can have nasty side effects.

IRHOM2 is a protein that helps to release TNF from where it sits harmlessly and inactively on the surface of cells, so attacking IRHOM2 should have the same effect as attacking TNF – reducing in TNF release and therefore reduction in inappropriately active immune cells, and so reduction in RA symptoms.

It is hoped that drugs targeting IRHOM2 would be less toxic, because they will only block TNF release from the specific cells that contribute to joint damage, and they could be an alternative for those who don’t respond well to anti-TNFs.

There is, of course, a long way to go. This is just the identification of a possible target. The next step is to find something that will actually block IRHOM2 and be safe to use in patients. Then there will be the long, slow plod (quite necessary for safety reasons!) through clinical trials, with no doubt a few failures along the way – but some years down the line this could be a real breakthrough. Let’s hope so!

 

p.s. I do hope this makes sense! I’m really, really tired and I haven’t had hubby proofread it yet!

Why are three-quarters of RA suffers women?

January 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 5 Comments
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Well, all those of us who suffer from RA and/or are women will already know that it’s not because we’re a bunch of winging Minnies, but until recently, although a genetic link was suspected, it had not been found.

Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said: ‘This is the first time that a genetic association has been established between rheumatoid arthritis and the X chromosome. This could provide a useful clue in helping us to understand why rheumatoid arthritis is three times more likely to occur in women.’

It was reported late last year that among the 46(!) genes that seem to be linked to people getting RA, some have recently been discovered that are on the X chromosome. Now both men and women have X chromosomes, but while women have two X chromosomes, men have one X and one Y chromosome instead, and the genes don’t occur on the Y.

This is all part of a long-term study from the University of Manchester (UK) and the genes on the X chromosome are among the 14 found towards the end of last year.

Professor Jane Worthington, study lead based at the NIHR Manchester Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit, said: ‘This groundbreaking study brought together scientists from around the world and involved the use of DNA samples from more than 27,000 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and healthy controls’ She added, ‘We observed remarkable similarities with genetic markers associated with other autoimmune diseases,’ which is an interesting, but perhaps unsurprising finding.

The intention behind all this work is that it will lead to new ‘genetic therapies’ – drugs that can target certain genes and switch them on/off as appropriate. Let’s hope they won’t be too long in coming!

Healthline Blog Awards – never mind me, vote for Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior!

January 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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Good news – there’s a rheumatoid arthritis blog currently in the top FIVE of the Healthline blog awards. The bad news? Well, I could say, ‘It’s not me’ but hey, I post a few times a year and witter on about biscuit making, so I think Kelly at Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, who really does work at making an informative and blog for suffers, and increasing awareness of RA, deserves the kudos more; no, the bad news is it’s not number one … yet. So please do go and vote for her!

And do bear in mind that while you’re at it, you can vote for me too … and all my online ‘mates’: Wren and Andrew and Carla and all the folks in my blog roll; because you can vote for as many people as you like each day, although you can only vote for an individual once a day!

And if you have an RA blog with a handful of votes, like me, and you know you’re never going to get to where RA Warrior is, why not get behind her as well and get your readers voting for her … or her and you! :-)

How do I not overdo it tomorrow?

January 2, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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Today was my first day back at work – knee flare seemed to be pretty much over: the swelling had gone right down, it didn’t feel terribly hot, but it was achy now and then. Hurrah.

However, now the other knee had started to ache – RA, or just a reaction to me walking ‘funny’ because of the left knee flaring? I don’t know – but to add to the mix, today being my first day back at work meant it was also the first day since the holidays where I haven’t spent a significant amount of time with my feet up – and I’m really feeling that this evening, as I sit here typing with an ice pack clamped between my knees, and the heat pack waiting for me in bed!

Here’s the thing though – we’re moving offices tomorrow!

Fortunately hubby has the day off and has been volunteered, slightly unwillingly but with good grace, to be my feet, and the facilities manager in the building is also going to help us lug stuff, and then my two colleagues are both fairly fit … so hopefully I can pull out a conductor’s baton from somewhere and just direct operations!

Knee flare

December 29, 2012 at 11:22 am | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 6 Comments
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Well, whadayaknow? A knee flare turns out to be some kind of strange ‘dance’ move: you can see it here. Unfortunately it’s also what I’m having one of right now …. I’m dancing too: from the freezer to the microwave and the microwave to the freezer … mostly on one leg.

It started on Boxing Day evening – that’s Wednesday for those outside the UK! Just mild stiffness going upstairs – didn’t really think too much about it. Progressed to serious stiffness Wednesday morning which I assumed would pass of during the day. It didn’t. It got worser and worserer. By Wednesday evening it had started to be painful as well as stiff. I took paracetamol and grumbled.

Thursday my mum was doing a lunch for us and some friends. Splendid meal, good company but my sociability somewhat dampened by knee pain. That evening Mum asked if I did ice-packs or heat packs? DUHHH! Why oh why do I always forget those things?!

Pretty much since then I’ve either had an ice pack or a heat pack on it, or I’ve been moving around on it. It makes a huge difference. I can’t believe how stoooopid I am sometimes! But on the bright side, at least it’s starting to mend – or if it isn’t, then at least I’m starting to feel better.

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