Kidney Care Education

Chronic Kidney Disease and Vitamin D

Why is vitamin D important to chronic kidney disease (CKD)?

Vitamin D holds great promise in treating patients with CKD. Medical complications of CKD can cause severe bone damage and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Encouraging evidence reveals that vitamin D may play a critical role in preventing and treating these complications.

What does CKD have to do with my bones?

CKD affects the bones by changing the balance between phosphorus and calcium.

  • Excess phosphorus in the body is removed by the kidneys, but with CKD this mineral tends to build up in the blood, leading to a loss of calcium from bones.
  • Four small hormonal glands (the parathyroid), located in the neck, normally regulate calcium in the body. They can become overly active and result in further loss of calcium from bones.
  • These changes lead to problems.
     – softening of hard bones that can lead to fractures
     – hardening of soft tissues such as heart and blood vessels that can lead to cardiovascular disease and even death

How does vitamin D help?

Vitamin D improves calcium balance in patients with CKD and decreases parathyroid hormone (PTH) overactivity. Most people get enough vitamin D through food, supplements and exposure to sunlight. This vitamin D is then normally converted by the kidneys to an “active form” which can be used by the body. In patients with CKD, vitamin D cannot be converted, and so the body is essentially deficient in vitamin D.

What can I do?

Renal Specialists of Houston nephrologists will talk to you about vitamin D therapy. Blood levels of vitamin D and PTH will help determine your need for treatment. Options may include:

  • Vitamin D3 prescription
  • IV therapy for dialysis patients
  • Exercise program
  • Phosphate binder prescription
  • Surgical removal of one or more parathyroid glands

What does this have to do with heart disease?

There is mounting evidence that vitamin D therapy not only reduces atherosclerosis, but also may decrease the risk of death from CVD. It is clear that vitamin D therapy can be an effective tool in the battle against CKD in the early and advanced stages of the disease, improving both bone function and heart health.

Patients should always consult with their physicians before taking vitamin D or other supplements.

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