|Type of medicine||Vitamin D supplement|
|Used for||To promote healthy bones in people with kidney problems (renal osteodystrophy), or in women after the menopause with weakened bones (postmenopausal osteoporosis)|
Vitamin D is important for healthy, strong bones. Calcitriol is a type of vitamin D. A mild lack of vitamin D may not cause symptoms, but can cause general aches and pains. A more severe lack can cause serious problems such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. If you are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, you will be recommended to take a vitamin D supplement such as calcitriol routinely. Most vitamin D supplements need 'activating' by the kidneys. Calcitriol is a form of vitamin D which does not need this activation process, and so it is particularly helpful in people who have kidney problems.
You may have been prescribed calcitriol if you are a woman who has been through the menopause and you have osteoporosis (weakened bones). If this is the case, calcitriol will help your body absorb the calcium that you eat or drink in your diet, and this will help strengthen your bones.
Before taking calcitriol
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking calcitriol it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
- If you have ever been told you have high levels of calcium in your blood or urine.
- If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
How to take calcitriol
- Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about calcitriol, and a full list of possible side-effects from taking it.
- Take calcitriol capsules exactly as your doctor has told you. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how many to take each day. Your dose will also be on the label of the pack. Swallow the capsules with a drink of water.
- If you are taking calcitriol because you have kidney problems, when you first start this treatment your doctor may give you a small dose and then gradually increase it. This allows your doctor to make sure that you have the dose that helps your condition and avoids any unwanted symptoms.
- Try to take your doses at the same times each day as this will help you to remember to take them.
- If you do forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember (unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose). Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. Also, your doctor will want to do some blood tests during this treatment to check your levels of calcium and phosphate, and your kidney function.
- Your doctor or dietician will discuss with you how to maintain a well-balanced and healthy diet. It is important that you follow the advice you are given about what to eat and drink. If you eat more foods which contain calcium (such as milk, yogurts and cheese) than you are recommended to, this can increase the risk of side-effects. For the same reason, it is also important that you do not eat foods that have been fortified with vitamin D while you are on calcitriol.
- If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with calcitriol. This is because you must not take any other medicines which contain vitamin D or calcium.
- Treatment with calcitriol is usually long-term unless you experience an adverse effect. Continue to take the capsules unless you are advised otherwise.
- If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking calcitriol.
Can calcitriol cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.
|Common calcitriol side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 people who take this medicine||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Loss of appetite, loss of weight, feeling sick, feeling thirsty, sweating, a metallic taste in your mouth, a need to pass urine more often||These may be signs that there may be too much calcium in your blood. Make an appointment to see your doctor staightaway|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If this continues, speak with your doctor, as headaches may be a sign of too much calcium in your blood|
|Feeling sick, abdominal discomfort||Stick to simple meals - avoid rich or spicy foods. If this continues, speak with your doctor, as being sick is a sign of too much calcium in your blood|
|Rash, urinary infections||If troublesome, speak with your doctor|
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to calcitriol, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store calcitriol
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 63rd Edition (Mar 2012) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
- Manufacturer's PIL, Rocaltrol® 0.25 mcg and 0.5 mcg capsules; Manufacturer's PIL, Rocaltrol® 0.25 mcg and 0.5 mcg capsules, Roche Products Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated November 2011.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr John Cox