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      Female asylum seekers with musculoskeletal pain: the importance of diagnosis and treatment of hypovitaminosis D

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      1 , , 1 , 1
      BMC Family Practice
      BioMed Central

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          Abstract

          Background

          Hypovitaminosis D is well known in different populations, but may be under diagnosed in certain populations. We aim to determine the first diagnosis considered, the duration and resolution of symptoms, and the predictors of response to treatment in female asylum seekers suffering from hypovitaminosis D.

          Methods

          Design: A pre- and post-intervention observational study.

          Setting: A network comprising an academic primary care centre and nurse practitioners.

          Participants: Consecutive records of 33 female asylum seekers with complaints compatible with osteomalacia and with hypovitaminosis D (serum 25-(OH) vitamin D <21 nmol/l).

          Treatment intervention: The patients received either two doses of 300,000 IU intramuscular cholecalciferol as well as 800 IU of cholecalciferol with 1000 mg of calcium orally, or the oral treatment only.

          Main outcome measures: We recorded the first diagnosis made by the physicians before the correct diagnosis of hypovitaminosis D, the duration of symptoms before diagnosis, the responders and non-responders to treatment, the duration of symptoms after treatment, and the number of medical visits and analgesic drugs prescribed 6 months before and 6 months after diagnosis.

          Tests: Two-sample t-tests, chi-squared tests, and logistic regression analyses were performed. Analyses were performed using SPSS 10.0.

          Results

          Prior to the discovery of hypovitaminosis D, diagnoses related to somatisation were evoked in 30 patients (90.9%). The mean duration of symptoms before diagnosis was 2.53 years (SD 3.20). Twenty-two patients (66.7%) responded completely to treatment; the remaining patients were considered to be non-responders. After treatment was initiated, the responders' symptoms disappeared completely after 2.84 months. The mean number of emergency medical visits fell from 0.88 (SD 1.08) six months before diagnosis to 0.39 (SD 0.83) after (P = 0.027). The mean number of analgesic drugs that were prescribed also decreased from 1.67 (SD 1.5) to 0.85 (SD 1) (P = 0.001).

          Conclusion

          Hypovitaminosis D in female asylum seekers may remain undiagnosed, with a prolonged duration of chronic symptoms. The potential pitfall is a diagnosis of somatisation. Treatment leads to a rapid resolution of symptoms, a reduction in the use of medical services, and the prescription of analgesic drugs in this vulnerable population.

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          Most cited references32

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          Hypovitaminosis D in medical inpatients.

          Vitamin D deficiency is a major risk factor for bone loss and fracture. Although hypovitaminosis D has been detected frequently in elderly and housebound people, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among patients hospitalized on a general medical service is unknown. We assessed vitamin D intake, ultraviolet-light exposure, and risk factors for hypovitaminosis D and measured serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, parathyroid hormone, and ionized calcium in 290 consecutive patients on a general medical ward. A total of 164 patients (57 percent) were considered vitamin D-deficient (serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, < or = 15 ng per milliliter), of whom 65 (22 percent) were considered severely vitamin D-deficient (serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, <8 ng per milliliter). Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations were related inversely to parathyroid hormone concentrations. Lower vitamin D intake, less exposure to ultraviolet light, anticonvulsant-drug therapy, renal dialysis, nephrotic syndrome, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, winter season, higher serum concentrations of parathyroid hormone and alkaline phosphatase, and lower serum concentrations of ionized calcium and albumin were significant univariate predictors of hypovitaminosis D. Sixty-nine percent of the patients who consumed less than the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D and 43 percent of the patients with vitamin D intakes above the recommended daily allowance were vitamin D-deficient. Inadequate vitamin D intake, winter season, and housebound status were independent predictors of hypovitaminosis D in a multivariate model. In a subgroup of 77 patients less than 65 years of age without known risk factors for hypovitaminosis D, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was 42 percent. Hypovitaminosis D is common in general medical inpatients, including those with vitamin D intakes exceeding the recommended daily allowance and those without apparent risk factors for vitamin D deficiency.
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            Serum vitamin D concentrations among elderly people in Europe.

            Vitamin D status decreases with age, mainly as a result of restricted sunlight exposure, reduced capacity of the skin to produce vitamin D, and reduced dietary vitamin D intake. We measured wintertime serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations in 824 elderly people from 11 European countries. 36% of men and 47% of women had 25(OH)D concentrations below 30 nmol/L. Users of vitamin D supplements and/or sunlamps had higher 25(OH)D (median 54 nmol/L) than non users (median 31 nmol/L). Surprisingly, lowest mean 25(OH)D concentrations were seen in southern European countries. Low 25(OH)D concentrations could largely be explained by attitudes towards sunlight exposure and factors of physical health status, after exclusion of users of vitamin D supplements or sunlamps. Problems with daily living activities and wearing clothes with long sleeves during periods of sunshine were strong predictors of low wintertime serum 25(OH)D concentrations. These findings show that free-living elderly Europeans, regardless of geographical location, are at substantial risk of inadequate vitamin D status during winter and that dietary enrichment or supplementation with vitamin D should be seriously considered during this season.
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              Prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in an adult normal population.

              The vitamin D status of a general adult urban population was estimated between November and April in 1569 subjects selected from 20 French cities grouped in nine geographical regions (between latitude 43 degrees and 51 degrees N). Major differences in 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentration were found between regions, the lowest values being seen in the North and the greatest in the South, with a significant 'sun' effect (r = 0.72; p = 0.03) and latitude effect (r = -0.79; p = 0.01). In this healthy adult population, 14% of subjects exhibited 25(OH)D values < or = 30 nmol/l (12 ng/ml), which represents the lower limit (< 2 SD) for a normal adult population measured in winter with the same method (RIA Incstar). A significant negative correlation was found between serum intact parathyroid hormone (iPTH) and serum 25(OH)D values (p < 0.01). Serum iPTH held a stable plateau level at 36 pg/ml as long as serum 25(OH)D values were higher than 78 nmol/l (31 ng/ml), but increased when the serum 25(OH)D value fell below this. When the 25(OH)D concentration became equal to or lower than 11.3 nmol/l (4.6 ng/ml), the PTH values reached the upper limit of normal values (55 pg/ml) found in vitamin D replete subjects. These results showed that in French normal adults living in an urban environment with a lack of direct exposure to sunshine, diet failed to provide an adequate amount of vitamin D. It is important to pay attention to this rather high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in the general adult population and to discuss the clinical utility of winter supplementation with low doses of vitamin D.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BMC Fam Pract
                BMC Family Practice
                BioMed Central (London )
                1471-2296
                2006
                23 January 2006
                : 7
                : 4
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Medical Outpatient Clinic, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
                Article
                1471-2296-7-4
                10.1186/1471-2296-7-4
                1397839
                16430783
                cc41b581-df66-4b66-95d6-9d0aaf448755
                Copyright © 2006 de la Jara et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                History
                : 20 July 2005
                : 23 January 2006
                Categories
                Research Article

                Medicine
                Medicine

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