Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Excess Vitamin D poisoning especially concerning for diabetics

A friends Mom died from too much of a supposed "good thing" last year.  She was a diabetic with poor kidney function and an overdose of vitamin D meant she suffered a lingering illness and painful death.  Given the increases in diabetes we see in the US, I feel  that sharing her story here is the responsible thing to do and I hope to prevent the same tragedy. 

Before I continue I must include a disclaimer:  I am NOT a health care provider - no dietisian, no nurse, no physician.  I am an educated middle-aged woman with some common sense and desire to share information.   I urge any reader - anyone for that matter - who has questions about Vitamin D to talk with their health care provider or do their own research.   There are several very credible sources (Mayo Clinic for example) that post more information about the benefits and risks of Vitamin D and other supplements, please seek them out.    

Vitamin D is necessary for many functions in the human body and especially important for elders since it helps the body absorb calcium and retain bone mass.  Too much vitamin D can have painful side effects - the most severe  - and risky to elders - are high blood pressure, kidney stones or a build up of calcium in soft tissues like the heart and kidneys. In My friend's case, her mother died of kidney failure due to calcium build up.  She had so much calcium in her blood that her kidneys worked like mad to filter it out. The calcium built up there in her kidneys.   She had reduced kidney function due to the diabetes and the increased demand was more than her damaged kidneys could tolerate.

What was the source of the vitamin D? Her supplements, her vitamins. For several years, my friends Mom ordered special vitamins from a pharmacy out of state.   Due to an error at the pharmacy too much Vitamin D was added to a certain batch that was shipped to this elder.  The vitamins looked just the same as always. With no way to know about the excess vitamin D, she took her pills faithfully as she'd always done.  After a couple few weeks she began to feel bad; after three weeks she ended up in the hospital with kidney failure.  No one had anyway of preventing this error, except the pharmacist that made her vitamins and his supplier who changed the wholesale packaging and concentration.    Had she known about the risks associated with her supplements, she might have been in tune to slight symptoms before she was too ill to recover.   I hope that anyone with diabetes, will learn the risks and subtle signs of early vitamin D poisoning.