Traditional treatment of psoriasis – a chronic, non-contagious inflammatory disease of the skin – can include a topical lotion or creams, pills or injections, or phototherapy, which uses light to treat the condition. These options have drawbacks, including high cost, inconvenience and increased risk of other health problems.
The researchers want to find out if vitamin D supplements are an effective treatment for psoriasis.
Research supervisor and co-director of the Vitamin D Research Centre Dr Pamela von Hurst says, “We know that UV radiation increases vitamin D levels, but of course, in winter, when there’s less sun about, our vitamin D levels get low. Other options are either expensive, messy or have side-effects. We want to help improve the quality of life for psoriasis sufferers.”
The Auckland-based trial will take place over a one-year period, and started in August 2012.
PhD research student Michelle Ingram is excited by the potential offered by the study as a low-cost alternative treatment. “Having psoriasis can really affect how people live and interact with others when the condition is active,” she says. “This can be anything from choosing a particular type of clothing to cover it up, to deciding not to go out in public when they feel it’s looking really bad. If we can determine the benefits of taking vitamin D supplements, that will give psoriasis sufferers new options in the battle to manage this disease.”
The researchers are looking for 112 Auckland-based psoriasis sufferers aged 18 or older, with plaque-type psoriasis in ‘active phase’ which has been stable for the past two months. Volunteers must meet certain criteria, and be able to attend five appointments at the Albany-based Human Nutrition Research Unit for assessments and samples. They don’t need to have a doctor’s referral, and will be screened by a dermatologist before being accepted to the trial.
The Vitamin D Research Centre will form part of Massey’s new College of Health in 2013 that will focus on illness and injury prevention rather than cure. The college will bring together specialists from fields ranging from food and nutrition, sport and exercise, rehabilitation, nursing, Maori and Pasifika health, public health, social work, health and safety; as well as those researching the social and economic factors that underpin health and wellbeing.