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Vitamin A Deficiency: Symptoms, causes, prevention & treatment

Team AckoSept 19, 2022

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, one in every three children suffer from Vitamin A Deficiency in India. This is a serious issue, considering health issues like dry skin and vision loss that arise from this deficiency can be prevented. An easy solution is to include organic Vitamin-A-rich foods in your diet or consume Vitamin-A fortified items. The following article will help you understand the effect of Vitamin A Deficiency, its symptoms, causes, treatment methods and ways to prevent it.

Vitamin A Deficiency

What is Vitamin A Deficiency?

A shortage of Vitamin A in the blood and tissues is known as Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) or Hypovitaminosis A. Underdeveloped nations frequently experience it, particularly children, and women of childbearing age. VAD cases in developed countries are rare.

Vitamin A Deficiency is the most common, preventable cause of childhood blindness worldwide. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, it causes blindness in an estimated 2,50,000 to 5,00,000 children each year.

Signs and symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency

The following can be the signs and symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency.

  1. Dryness patches on the skin: Skin cells need Vitamin A to grow and heal themselves. It also aids in reducing inflammation brought on by specific skin problems. Eczema and other skin conditions may be caused by a lack of Vitamin A in the body. Skin that is dry, itchy, and irritated is also a symptom. 

  2. Itchy eyes: The most well-known effects of Vitamin A Deficiency include eye problems. In severe cases, inadequate Vitamin A intake can result in total blindness or dying corneas, marked by patches known as Bitot's Spots. One of the initial symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency is dry eyes or the inability to produce tears. Children who eat diets low in Vitamin A, such as those in Southeast Asia, Africa, and India, are particularly at risk of getting dry eyes. According to research, high doses of Vitamin A decreased the rate of dry eyes by 63% in infants and kids who consumed supplements for 16 months. 

  3. Low light or night blindness: Night blindness can result from severe Vitamin A Deficiency. According to several observational studies, there is a high prevalence of night blindness in underdeveloped countries. Health practitioners have attempted to raise Vitamin A levels in patients at risk of night blindness due to the severity of this issue. In one trial, Vitamin A in the form of meals or supplements was given to women who had night blindness. Their condition improved. 

  4. Issues with fertility: Both male and female reproduction and healthy infant development depend on Vitamin A. Vitamin A Deficiency could be one of the causes of your inability to conceive. Infertility can result from a Vitamin A deficit in both men and women. According to research, infertile men may require more antioxidants since their bodies experience more oxidative stress. One of the substances that functions in the body as an antioxidant is Vitamin A. Miscarriages are also linked to Vitamin A Deficiency.

  5. Delayed development: Vitamin A Deficiency in children's diets may cause stunted growth. This is because Vitamin A is essential for the healthy development of the human body. Vitamin A, combined with other nutrients, has been demonstrated in numerous trials to enhance growth. Research in Indonesia involving more than 1,000 kids found that those who were given Vitamin A in high-dose supplements for 4 months saw a growth of 0.39 cm more than kids who received a placebo.

  6. Slow healing of wounds: Low Vitamin A levels may cause slow wound healing following surgery or injury. The reason could be that Vitamin A encourages the production of collagen, which is essential for maintaining healthy skin. According to research, it can assist in repairing the skin locally and orally. Older men who used topical Vitamin A to heal their wounds saw a 50% reduction in the size of their wounds compared to those who didn't.

  7. Chest infections: Infections that frequently recur, especially in the chest or throat, may indicate a Vitamin A deficit. Research findings on Vitamin A supplementation and respiratory tract infections are conflicting. According to a study of children's health, children in Ecuador who received 10,000 IU of Vitamin A per week had less respiratory illness than those who received a placebo. However, a review of research involving kids revealed that taking Vitamin A supplements may raise the risk of chest and throat infections by 8%. According to the studies, people should receive supplements only when they lack certain nutrients. High blood levels of proVitamin A may guard against respiratory infections.

What causes Vitamin A Deficiency?

The continuous intake of low amounts of Vitamin A might result in Vitamin A Deficiency. The inability of your body to utilise Vitamin A in your diet can also result in Vitamin A insufficiency. This could happen in several diseases, such as the following.

  • Crohn's illness

  • Coeliac illness

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • An intestinal ailment called giardiasis

  • Hepatic cirrhosis

  • Illnesses that affect the pancreas

  • Obstruction in your body's ability to absorb bile from the gallbladder and liver

How to diagnose Vitamin A Deficiency

It is possible to make a clinical diagnosis of Vitamin A Deficiency using the results of a standard exam and supporting laboratory tests. When a patient's history and physical examination are unclear, the doctor may request serum retinol testing via a blood test. Deficiency is reported when the levels are less than 20 micrograms/dL. 

Another method to test Vitamin A level is by performing a biopsy on the liver. Measuring through biopsy is the gold standard for determining whole-body Vitamin A levels. However, liver biopsies are not usually performed due to invasive methods used. This is only used for research purposes.

Treatments for Vitamin A Deficiency

Treatment for Vitamin A Deficiency involves consuming the required amounts each day. You can consider eating dark-green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, squash, carrots, fruits like papaya or oranges, etc., to prevent the deficiency of Vitamin A. Both oral and injectable forms of Vitamin A can be used to treat severe Vitamin A Deficiency. 

Oral Vitamin A supplementation has been shown to help lower the risk of morbidity, particularly from severe diarrhoea, and the overall mortality rate and measles-related death. High doses of Vitamin A are given orally over many days as treatment. Lower doses are then administered until the skin and eyesight issues improve.

How much time does it take to cure Vitamin A Deficiency?

The time taken to cure Vitamin A Deficiency can depend upon the following factors.

  1. Severity of Vitamin A Deficiency: If a person severely lacks a particular mineral or vitamin, the deficiency may take a long time to be corrected. A high dosage would be required to ensure a quick recovery.

  2. Smoking habits: Smoking and drinking alcohol are two examples of specific lifestyle choices and variables that may lead to malabsorption, necessitating a larger intake to maintain homeostasis.

  3. Type of medications used: Vitamins supplied in capsule form often have a slower impact than those administered in liquid form. This is because the body must disintegrate a capsule to get the vitamins contained therein.

  4. Other nutrients consumed with Vitamin A: Numerous vitamins and minerals have functional relationships with one another. If they are coupled up, they absorb each other more effectively.

  5. Type of Vitamin A consumed: Vitamin A and other fat-soluble vitamins require fat for absorption. This is only possible if the supplements are consumed with meals or if a liquid or capsule's fat content is mixed with the nutrients. Vitamins that are naturally fat-soluble are stored within the body and may not need to be taken in exact quantities daily as water-soluble vitamins.

  6. Other health issues: Medical conditions, such as Celiac Disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, can prevent the absorption of certain vitamins.

Frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common queries about Vitamin A Deficiency.

What are the risk factors of Vitamin A Deficiency?

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The risk factors of Vitamin A Deficiency are as follows.

  • A recent episode of diarrhoea 

  • Less consumption of Vitamin-A-rich foods

  • Night blindness

  • Skin issues

  • Fertility issues

  • Frequent infection

  • Dry eyes

How to prevent Vitamin A Deficiency?

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Including items that contain Vitamin A in your diet is the most excellent strategy to prevent Vitamin A Deficiency. Natural sources of Vitamin A include Broccoli and other green vegetables, especially leafy greens, and orange or yellow vegetables, such as carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.

What are the two forms of Vitamin A?

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The two forms of Vitamin A are as follows.

  1. Provitamin A carotenoids: The pigments that give vegetables and fruits their yellow, orange, and red colours are called carotenoids. Your body progressively transforms the carotenoids from these fruits and vegetables into Vitamin A after you consume them. 

  2. Preformed Vitamin A: Retinol, or preformed Vitamin A, is a nutrient found in animal products such as eggs, fish, beef, chicken, and liver. Additionally, dairy items and cereals are fortified with Vitamin A.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. As this content piece is not vetted by a medical professional, please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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