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Melbourne researchers spot link between vitamin D and uveitis

A new Australian study linking low vitamin D levels with uveitis has suggested investigating whether supplements could help prevent a relapse of the condition in at-risk patients.

Associate Professor Lyndell Lim, a uveitis and medical retina subspecialist and head of clinical trials research at Melbourne’s Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), has unveiled her latest research that identifies an association between vitamin D deficiency and patients with active and inactive non-infectious uveitis.

The work, recently published in the journal Ophthalmology, involved 151 participants consisting of both active and inactive uveitis patients, as well as population controls. Each underwent serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D measurement and completed a questionnaire on both vitamin D intake and ultraviolet light exposure.

The research follows previous studies that found an association between vitamin D deficiency and multiple sclerosis, which has also been linked with uveitis.

“We found that patients with uveitis were more likely to have low levels of vitamin D. More significantly, patients with active uveitis were more likely to have even lower levels of vitamin D,” Lim said.

Specifically, the study found the median level of serum vitamin D in those with active uveitis was 46 nanomoles per litre (nmol/l), which was significantly lower than in the inactive control group at 64 nmol/l.

The active uveitis group also demonstrated lower median serum vitamin D levels than the local population median of 62 nmol/l.Additionally, Lim said vitamin D supplementation was found to be associated with decreased uveitis activity, as was sun exposure in those with vitamin D deficiency.

These results suggest vitamin D supplementation should be studied as an option for the prevention of uveitis relapse in at-risk patients.

“More research is needed before we could recommend vitamin D supplements – there would need to be a randomised controlled trial,” she said.

“But the message is, if you have uveitis, get your vitamin D levels checked, and if you’re deficient it’s worth trying to get your levels up into a healthy range.”

According to Lim several factors can cause uveitis, including infections and eye injuries. In Australia – where the condition affects around 20 people per 100,000 each year – and other developed countries, most cases are caused by an autoimmune response.

 IMAGE: Associate Professor Lyndell Lim from the Centre for Eye Research Australia. Credit: Anna Carlile