Plenty of people with psoriasis use different combinations of medications to treat the condition. For some, the psoriasis symptoms may improve significantly just by increasing their vitamin D.
Vitamin D, which your body can make when exposed to sunlight, has many health benefits that may help treat psoriasis. Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to psoriasis. While a deficiency doesn’t seem to cause psoriasis outright, it may impair the body’s ability to keep the skin healthy. This may increase flares. When taken in healthy doses, vitamin D can help treat psoriasis. Here’s how.
Vitamin D benefits and uses for psoriasis
Vitamin D possesses different health benefits that can help treat several types of psoriasis, including scalp psoriasis.
A study from 2011 found that vitamin D can strengthen the immune system. Because psoriasis is an autoimmune response, this effect could help treat the condition internally.
Topical oils and ointments for psoriasis containing vitamin D can also help treat flares. Vitamin D can slow the growth of new cells, so vitamin D oil applied directly to the flare can help thin the plaque.
Forms and doses of vitamin D
There are different forms of vitamin D that you can use to help treat your psoriasis.
These can be taken in pill and liquid forms that are easy to take on a daily basis. It’s recommended to take 400 to 1,000 international units (IU) per day. Start with a lower dose and increase it gradually, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Instead of taking supplements, some people prefer to eat more foods that naturally contain vitamin D. These foods include:
- egg yolks
- fatty fish like tuna
- fortified foods, including some cereals, orange juices, and dairy products
A blood test can help your doctor evaluate how much more vitamin D you need. For optimal health, your vitamin D level should be above 30 ng/mL. Taking oral supplements and altering your diet to include more vitamin D can improve your overall health and boost your immune system, which may help prevent flares.
You can also go for topical options. Try getting more sun or using a sun light or light box to increase the vitamin D your body makes on its own. This is called phototherapy. But use this treatment carefully. Increased sun exposure, especially in excess, can increase your risk of skin cancer.
You can also use topical vitamin D oils that are applied directly to the skin, especially on flare areas. Topical oils may be more effective in treating flares that already exist. While topical treatments are soothing, they typically aren’t effective in preventing recurrence.
Risks and shortcomings of vitamin D
Vitamin D can help many people with psoriasis. Still, it’s often not an effective long-term treatment on its own. Some people will need topical medications with other active ingredients, including corticosteroids. Vitamin D also won’t work for everyone, regardless of what form it’s taken in.
The biggest risk of taking vitamin D is taking too much. Vitamin D in moderation is good for you, but taking too much can hurt you. It causes a condition called hypervitaminosis D, or vitamin D toxicity. This condition can cause a buildup of too much calcium in the blood, which can cause frequent urination, weakness, and eventually kidney problems. It’s typically only caused by excessive doses of vitamin D supplements. It almost never occurs from diet or sunlight exposure.
As long as you take vitamin D in moderation, you should be able to avoid vitamin D toxicity. Your risk increases, though, if you have liver or kidney conditions already.
Vertical and Dovonex are two commonly prescribed topical treatments for psoriasis, and both have vitamin D as their main ingredient. This is a great indication that while vitamin D may not be effective in treating psoriasis entirely on its own, it can certainly help.
If you’ve been taking or applying vitamin D as a psoriasis treatment and you haven’t seen any improvement within one month, follow up with your doctor to discuss alternative treatment options. They may recommend combining the vitamin D with another medication for more effective treatment.
You should also contact your doctor immediately if you believe you’ve taken too much vitamin D. Symptoms can include frequent urination, back pain, weakness, dizziness, or severe fatigue.