Vitamin A Deficiency

Friday, Mar 1, 2024 by Nisha Gupta, MD

This month we will discuss vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is found in green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables and fruits such as carrots and cantaloupe, and in eggs.

What does vitamin A do for our vision?

Vitamin A plays a large role in our vision. It is needed to produce pigments in the retina which allow the rod and cone cells to function properly. The rods help with vision in dim light and cones are for color and fine detail. Vitamin A is also needed to produce mucin to keep the cornea lubricated.

What are the risk factors for vitamin A deficiency?

  • Malnutrition
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Liver or pancreas disease

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom is night blindness and trouble adjusting to the dark. With time, the conjunctiva and cornea become very dry. One may develop corneal ulcers and scarring from severe disease which can cause vision loss.

How is this diagnosed?

A complete eye exam and thorough history are necessary to make the diagnosis. Blood tests can be done to check the vitamin A levels.

What is the treatment for vitamin A deficiency?

Oral or injected vitamin A supplements are used to treat deficiency. This can cure the night blindness and help the eyes become more lubricated. However, it will not reverse vision loss caused by ulcers and scarring. Local treatment includes aggressive lubrication with drops and ointment. There are many programs in place to educate families and combat deficiency.

Return next month for a discussion on a new topic!

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