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Doctors fight soaring Vitamin D deficiency

Dr Mike Knapton

vitamin D the sunshine vitaminSoaring rates of vitamin D deficiency in Cambridgeshire have sparked action by doctors, new figures have revealed.
Statistics obtained by the News under the Freedom of Information Act show the number of prescriptions for Vitamin D, which is used to strengthen weak bones and improve the immune system, have almost doubled in the county in just four years.

According to NHS Cambridgeshire, more than 111,000 prescriptions were issued in the last nine months of 2010, with the overall figures set to hit 150,000 by the end of March 2011. That would be 84 per cent higher than the 81,329 handed out to patients in 2006-07.

Dr Mike Knapton, a GP at Cambridge's Nuffield Road practice, said doctors were increasingly aware about the benefits of prescribing vitamin D.

He said: "Vitamin D is essential to the health of your bones. An absence of it can cause rickets, which is very rare, but also osteomalacia and even osteoporosis. "Increasing a patient's supply of vitamin D can also protect against common fractures among the elderly. "These hip, wrist or back injuries can result in huge pain, disability and use of social care services. By prescribing a relatively inexpensive medicine to improve bone health, you can head off a lot of more serious problems. "I think we're seeing more use of vitamins because we have an ageing population and people are not getting out as much, while doctors are more aware of its benefits.

"With housebound patients, they will not get much sunlight, which is how we receive most of our vitamin D."
Concerns about vitamin D deficiency among adults follows the news that rickets, a childhood disease causing bowed legs, had returned to Cambridgeshire, with a handful of cases seen by Addenbrooke's specialists each year.

The Government's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has recommended that all under-fives take vitamin D supplements to aid bone strength, while experts from the British Association of Dermatologists, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Heart Forum, the National Osteoporosis Society and the Primary Care Dermatology Society have said exposure to sunlight is essential to combat a range of conditions.

Dr Knapton added: "A balance needs to be struck between protecting young children from the risk of skin cancer and ensuring they have enough vitamin D from sunlight."

Jack Grove Cambridge News UK

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