“This is an exciting finding because it indicates that it is very possible for vitamin D supplementation to have a profound impact on the course of this disease,” said senior author Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, PhD, an associate professor of neurology at UCSF and director of the Regional Pediatric MS Center at UCSF Children’s Hospital. Waubant said she expects similar findings in adult patients with MS.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic and often disabling disease that affects the central nervous system, which comprises the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. A type of autoimmune disorder, MS causes the body’s own defense system to break down a substance called myelin, which surrounds and protects nerve fibers.
Although MS occurs most commonly in adults, a small proportion of cases are diagnosed in children and adolescents. According to the National MS Society, two to five percent of all people with MS experience their first symptoms before the age of 18.
The researchers measured vitamin D levels through blood samples from 110 patients whose MS symptoms began at age 18 or younger. The patients were seen at either UCSF Children’s Hospital or the State University of New York Stony Brook’s Regional Pediatric MS Center of Excellence – two of six multidisciplinary referral centers in the United States sponsored by the National MS Society.
After providing the initial blood sample, patients were followed for an average of 1.7 years, during which the researchers recorded the total number of relapses each patient experienced. According to Mowry, a relapse or flare-up of MS causes new neurologic symptoms or the worsening of old ones, such as impaired vision, problems with balance, or numbness. Relapses can be very mild or severe enough to interfere with a person’s ability to function.
During the follow-up period, the researchers assessed the pat
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