MauiDerm 2015: Research links Vitamin D, skin diseases

Research has linked low levels of vitamin D to a variety of skin diseases, although it's not necessarily a cause-and-effect scenario.

Researchers have detected a potential link between low vitamin D and alopecia areata, and a case report suggests the possibility that a rheumatoid arthritis drug could treat not only alopecia areata but also alopecia totalis, one expert told colleagues during the Maui Derm 2015 meeting this week.

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Ted Rosen, M.D., professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine and Chief of Dermatology at the Houston VA Medical Center, told colleagues about findings of previous research that has linked low levels of Vitamin D to a variety of skin diseases, including psoriasis, melanoma, Behcet’s syndrome and polymorphous light eruption. It’s not clear what’s going on, Dr. Rosen says, although it’s not necessarily a cause-and-effect situation. Perhaps, he says, people with skin conditions are hesitant about going outside and don’t get enough Vitamin D from the sun.

New research from Ireland links low levels to Vitamin D to 63% of hidradenitis patients, while another study from Turkey finds that 91% of alopecia areata patients had low levels.

Dermatologists should test Vitamin D in alopecia areata patients or at least suggest that they get their levels checked at their next physical, Dr. Rosen says.

It’s not clear what dermatologists can do if the levels are low, he says, although there are reports that Vitamin D supplements prescribed to psoriasis patients have improved alopecia areata to some extent.

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As for alopecia totalis, Dr. Rosen says it’s “almost impossible” to treat, but a new case study found full regrowth in a patient who took the Janus kinase inhibitor tofacitinib for psoriasis. While more study is needed, he says, the drug may help both alopecia areata and alopecia totalis. 

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