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Vitamin A Deficiency: Symptoms And Signs


Vitamins are an integral part of your daily diet. These are a small group of substances that can be taken in small quantities to support your overall well-being. Vitamin A is important for good vision, healthy eyes, and healthy skin.

Vitamin A cannot be produced in the body by itself, so it must be incorporated into your diet in some other way.

You may develop a vitamin A deficiency if your diet doesn’t contain enough vitamin A. This can lead to vision problems, decreased immunity, and even death.

You can treat mild forms without serious side effects. A severe vitamin A deficiency is more common in countries that have difficult socioeconomic circumstances and are unable to access vitamin A-rich foods.

What Is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin, is found naturally in many of our foods. Vitamin A is important for strong immunity, healthy vision, and reproduction. Vitamin A helps to maintain a healthy immune system, vision, and reproduction. 1

Two types of vitamin A are found in foods: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A: 1

  • Preformed Vitamin A ( Retinol or retinyl esters). It is found in food from animal sources such as meat, dairy, and eggs.
  • Provitamin A carotenoids are found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene, the most prevalent form of provitamin A found in supplements and foods, is the most popular.

What Is Vitamin A Deficiency?

Vitamin A deficiencies are usually caused by a lack of vitamin A in the diet.

Although it is not common in developed countries, such as the United States of America, it is quite common in low-income countries where residents don’t have access to adequate food sources for provitamin-A carotenoids and preformed vitamins A.

Who Are At Risk For A Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency can be found in Africa and Southeast Asia. Around 250 million children are affected by it. Measles and other serious infections can make symptoms worse.

Vitamin A deficiencies can also occur in adults who have gastrointestinal diseases that prevent vitamin A from being absorbed. These include:

  • Celiac disease
  • Cirrhosis of liver
  • Pancreatic insufficiency
  • Bile duct disorder
  • Giardiasis
  • Duodenal bypass

Signs And Symptoms Of Vitamin A Deficiency

There are many symptoms that can be caused by a vitamin A deficiency.

  • Night blindness: Night blindness is a condition that causes difficulty seeing in low light.
  • Xerophthalmia: This condition can cause severe dryness and crusting of the eyes, which could lead to damage to the retina and cornea.
  • Infection: Vitamin A deficiencies can lead to more frequent health problems as the body is unable to fight infections
  • Bitot spots.: A buildup of keratin can cause blurred vision.
  • Skin irritation: Someone with a vitamin A deficiency may experience skin problems such as itching, dryness, and scaling.
  • Keratomalacia: A condition that causes dry and cloudy corneas.
  • Keratinisation. Cells become filled with keratin protein and die. This creates tough structures in the urinary and gastrointestinal tracts.
  • Slow growth: Children who aren’t getting enough vitamin A can experience stunted or delayed growth.
  • Fertility: Vitamin A deficiencies can make it difficult to conceive and, in some cases, even impossible. 

How Common Is Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency in high-income countries is rare. It is more common in countries with low incomes. This can be due to intestinal infections and worms as well as protein-energy malnutrition.

Vitamin A deficiencies are the most common cause of preventable blindness among children around the world. It is the most widespread nutritional deficiency.

There is a higher risk of vitamin A deficiencies in the following areas:

  • People suffering from illnesses alter the way food is absorbed by the intestine (bowel) into their bodies.
  • People who have had weight-reduction surgery.
  • People who strictly adhere to a vegan diet.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (alcoholism) for a long time.
  • Another form of liver disease is vitamin A.
  • Children as young as three years old live in poverty.
  • Recent immigrants and refugees from low-income countries.

Vitamin A is most readily absorbed and is fat-soluble. It is absorbed when fat is broken down in the small bowel. People who eat very low-fat diets or take medications to reduce fat absorption, such as orlistat, may be at risk.

The Dangers Of Too Much Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for overall health. Too much Vitamin A can cause serious side effects.

Hypervitaminosis A (or vitamin A toxicity) is usually caused by taking high-dose supplements for long periods. Vitamin A is rarely taken in excess by people on a diet (source).

Vitamin A stored in excess can cause toxicity and other problems, including vision changes, bone swelling, confusion, dry skin, mouth ulcers, and eye irritations.

To prevent potential birth defects, pregnant women should be cautious about consuming too high levels of vitamin A.

Before you start taking vitamin A supplements, make sure to consult your healthcare provider.

Vitamin A may be required by people with certain conditions. Most adults require 700-900 mg of vitamin A daily. Nursing mothers need more (source).

Vitamin A Deficiency Prevention

Dark green leafy vegetables, brightly colored fruits (e.g., papayas, oranges), and yellow vegetables (e.g., squash, pumpkin) should be included in the diet. Vitamin A-fortified milk, cereals, egg yolks, fish liver oils, liver, and egg yolks are all good options. Consuming some fats can help carotenoids be absorbed more effectively. Infants with milk allergies should receive adequate vitamin A through formula feedings.

Prophylactic vitamins of vitamin A palmitate oil 200,000 units [60,000 retinol activity equivalent [RAE]]) are recommended for children aged 1 to 5 years. Infants under 6 months old can receive a single dose of 50,000 units (15,000 REA), while those 6 to 12 months and older can receive 100,000 units (30,000 REA).

Vitamin A Deficiency Treatment

Vitamin A palmitate oil is used to treat dietary deficiency vitamins. Take 60,000 units orally twice daily for two days. Then take 4500 units orally every day. For infants under 6 months old, 100,000 units for infants between 6 and 12 months of age, or 200,000 units for adults over 12 months, a 2-day dose should be administered. A third dose should be taken at least two weeks later. For infants and children suffering from complicated measles, the same doses should be used.

Vitamin A deficiencies are a risk factor in severe measles. Treatment with vitamin A may shorten the illness’ duration and reduce the severity and risk of death. All children who have measles should receive two doses of vitamin B (100,000 for children under 12 months old and 200 000 for those over 12 months). These doses should be given 24 hours apart. (See also WHO’s Measles Fact Sheet).

HIV-positive mothers must give their infants 50,000 units (15,000 RAE) within 48 hours of birth. Avoid prolonged daily administration of large doses to infants, especially as toxic effects may occur.

Pregnant or nursing women should not take more than 10,000 units (3000 RAE/day) of prophylactic or therapeutic doses to protect the infant or fetus.

The Bottom Line

Vitamin A deficiencies are common in developing countries but uncommon in America and other developed countries.

Too much vitamin A can cause skin irritation, night blindness, and infertility.

Vitamin A levels may be lower in people with acne and wounds. These individuals can benefit from higher vitamin A doses.

Vitamin A can be found in meat, eggs, and dairy products. You should eat a variety to ensure you have enough vitamin A.

Talk to your doctor if you think you may have vitamin A deficiencies. It is easy to fix a vitamin A deficiency with the right food and supplements.


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