A new study out of Turkey has found that in those with alopecia areata, low vitamin D levels are common and may relate to a more severe disease state.
Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your hair follicles, leading to a loss of hair. The disease commonly begins on the scalp but can lead to hair loss all over the body. In the United States, around 6.5 million people have the disease.
Vitamin D has a well-established effect on the immune system and is linked to a variety of autoimmune diseases. Researchers have found that vitamin D may be able to help in some aspects of autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes. That being said, there hasn’t been any research looking at the relationship between vitamin D and AA.
Recently, researchers at the Şişli Etfal Training and Research Hospital in Turkey conducted a study to determine if vitamin D levels relate to AA and how vitamin D may affect disease severity.
They recruited 86 patients with AA, 44 patients with vitiligo (a skin condition that leads to a loss of pigmentation), and 58 healthy participants.
The researchers measured the vitamin D levels of all participants and determined the severity of AA and vitiligo using Severity of Alopecia Tool (SALT) scores and body surface area (BSA) of loss of pigment, respectively. SALT scores determine the severity of AA by determining the percentage of hair loss on the scalp.
They wanted to know how vitamin D levels differed between the three groups and how vitamin D levels related to disease severity in those with AA and vitiligo.
The researchers found that 90.7% of patients with AA had vitamin D levels at or less than 20 ng/ml compared to 70.5% of patients with vitiligo and 32.8% of the healthy participants. Furthermore, they found that lower vitamin D levels were significantly related to an increased percentage of hair loss on the scalp, but they found no significant relationship between vitamin D levels and BSA in vitiligo.
“We found that [vitamin D] levels were significantly lower in patients with AA than in patients with vitiligo and in healthy controls,” the researchers stated.
“In addition, our results show that there is a significant inverse correlation between low [vitamin D] levels and severity of AA according to SALT scores.”
The researchers call for future studies on vitamin D supplementation in those with AA to determine if it might be an effective adjunct therapy in AA.