Vitamin A deficiency is one of the health conditions that many people have been experiencing. To maintain optimum health, your body needs the right amount of vitamins.
There are vitamins that your body can produce on its own, but vitamin A is an exception. This is the reason why you should need to take supplement to suffice the dietary requirement.
What is Vitamin A Deficiency?
Vitamin A plays big roles to promote healthy eyes and better vision, helps fight infections and makes your skin healthy. This vitamin is also called retinol.
Deficiency in vitamin A happens when your body is unable to get the daily requirement. This health problem is usually apparent in developing countries. Vitamin A deficiency may result to loss of vision and worse death.
That’s why it’s important to eat foods that are great source of vitamin A like fish-liver oils, eggs and milks. Beta-carotene can be converted into vitamin A, thus you should also consume yellow fruits and vegetables as well as green leafy vegetables. Your body will convert the beta-carotene into vitamin A.
There are cases in which deficiency in vitamin A increases to pregnant women during the third trimester. It’s because the nutritional demands of both the unborn child and the mother is higher. It can also cause the inability of your body to fight infections.
Mild vitamin A deficiency is treatable to prevent blindness, but if the condition is severe it can lead to visual impairment. It’s important for children to have sufficient amount of vitamin A in their body to prevent illnesses like respiratory infection, extreme diarrhea and measles.
Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms
Just like any other health conditions, vitamin A deficiency shows many symptoms including the following:
- Poor vision at night or in dim light – If you’ re experiencing difficulty in distinguishing images in low illumination. This symptom may aggravate into night blindness and worse to its severe form.
- Dry eyes – A person with severe deficiency in vitamin A may also experience dry eyes that can lead to xeropthalmia. This vision condition may result when the eye’s outer membrane loses its goblet cells, thus unable to produce tears.
The dead cells can build up on the conjunctiva and resembles like debris that may cause blindness or other infection.
- Eye inflammation – Another symptom of vitamin A deficiency is eye inflammation. The inflammation can affect the surrounding tissues and the eyelids. It may also cause corneal inflammation.
- Growth gap – If your child’s growth or development is not normal, you must seek immediate medical intervention before the condition gets worse.
- Skin dryness – Vitamin A deficiency may also show up in your skin texture. You may notice that your skin may get dry or rough.
What Are the Causes of Vitamin A Deficiency?
Identifying the cause of vitamin A deficiency is the best way to stop or prevent the condition. As discussed above, insufficient amount of vitamin A in your body can cause serious health problems. That’s why it’s important to everyone to know what triggers deficiency.
- Malnutrition is one of the biggest reasons why many people specifically children suffers vitamin A deficiency. Insufficient intake of animal food products and vegetables rich in vitamin A won’t only lead to malnutrition but also the risk of deficiency.
- Breast feeding is important to prevent developing deficiency in vitamin A. It’s because the breast milk contains vitamin A. That’s why mothers are encouraged to breast feed their children.
- If the body is unable to absorb well vitamin A, then deficiency is possible. Mal-absorption can be the result of celiac disease, cirrhosis, obstructive jaundice, cystic fibrosis or over use of laxative.
- Massive urine excretion can also cause vitamin A deficiency. People with UTI, tuberculosis, nephritis, pneumonia and cancer may result to urine over excretion.
- Hepatic patients may also develop deficiency in vitamin A due to the inability of the body to store vitamin A.
Can Vitamin A Deficiency Be Prevented?
Vitamin A deficiency can be prevented by eating foods that are rich source of vitamin A. Some of the foods that you can include in your diet are beef, liver, chicken, whole milk, eggs, fortified milk, mangoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach and green vegetables.
You can also consume foods fortified with vitamin A like pastries, breakfast cereals, crackers, breads and cereal grain bars.
People who are at high risk of developing vitamin A deficiency are required to take supplements to reduce the symptoms of the condition.
What Is the Treatment for Vitamin A Deficiency?
It is important to consult a doctor immediately once you notice the symptoms of deficiency in vitamin A. Early treatment can reduce the possibility of worsening the condition.
- The initial treatment for mild deficiency is to follow a diet that is rich in vitamin A. Likewise, you should also eat dark green vegetables as they contain good amount of carotene that helps your body to fully absorb vitamin A.
- Foods that are fortified with vitamin A can also help to prevent or treat the deficiency. However, when buying fortified foods, you should check the ingredients used such as retinol acetates, retinal esters and retinylpalmitate. Margarine and cooking oil are usually fortified.
- If taking foods rich in vitamin A is not sufficient, you can take supplements orally. However, those who are suffering severe deficiency are given aqueous I.V. supplement or vitamin A solution I.M. Read best vitamins for women.
You can consult your doctor for the right treatment appropriate to your condition. Never try any treatment without the supervision of your health care provider.
How Much Vitamin A Do I Need?
Usually the daily recommended amount of vitamin A for adults is 0.6mg for women and 0.7mg for men. For healthy adults, eating the foods listed above is enough to suffice the daily requirement. In fact, there are cases in which healthy adults are not required to take supplements.
Can I Take Too Much Vitamin A?
Your body needs vitamin A, but taking more than the recommended dosage can also cause health issues. Thus, you should take the right amount to avoid conditions like enlarged liver, dry hair and rough skin.
Pregnant women should avoid taking high dosage of vitamin A as it can cause birth defects to the unborn baby.
- Johnson, L. Vitamin A. Merck Manual. 2014.
- Micronutrient deficiencies: Vitamin a deficiency. World Health Organization. 2014.
- β-Carotene Conversion into Vitamin A
is a registered dietitian with over 10 years of experience in the field of nutrition. She has a Master’s degree in Nutritional Science from Dhaka University and has worked with various clients to help them achieve their health goals through personalized diet plans. Mounota is passionate about educating people on the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle and has written extensively on the subject for various publications.