This site is intended for health professionals only

Exposure to sun may help ward off arthritis

We often read of the dangers of overexposure to the sun, but avoiding it completely can lead to arthritis, according to The Arthritic Association. The national arthritis charity warns that sunshine is crucial for the body to produce vitamin D which is required to ward off degenerative conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis.

Earlier this year, James E Dowd, an American rheumatologist, published details of his use of vitamin D in treating arthritic patients. However, The Arthritic Association states that supplementation alone is not the answer.

"The body needs sunshine in order to synthesise the vitamin D required for optimum health," explains The Arthritic Association's John Wedlake-Griffiths. "Although you could take a vitamin D supplement, it's easy to overdose, and that can be counter-productive. So moderate exposure to sunlight is better - for example, earlier or later in the day, for short periods of time."

Vitamin D plays an active role in the absorption of calcium. The National Osteoporosis Society advises that low levels of vitamin D are associated with the development of osteoporosis, and a recent study linked low levels of vitamin D to type 1 diabetes. The indications are that the body's immune system is more robust when we are exposed to sunlight, but weakened when overexposed.