Vitamin A deficiency

Deficiency of vitamin A is a major cause of preventable blindness in children; while vitamin A deficiency is very rare in developed countries, it can be quite common in developing countries. It results when an individual does not get enough vitamin A through the diet or dietary supplements. Along with vitamin A comes various side effects and consequences. Learn more about vitamin A, deficiency signs and symptoms, causes, and the treatment for a deficiency of the vitamin.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A is one of the four essential fat-soluble vitamins. In the body, vitamin A has different functions. Vitamin A is sometimes known as retinol because it produces the pigments in the retina of the eye; because of this, vitamin A promotes good vision. In fact, retinol is what we would call an active form of the vitamin. Other functions of vitamin A are that it assists in forming and maintaining healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucous membranes, and skin.

Carotenoids are dark colored dyes found in plant foods that turn into vitamin A once the foods are metabolized in the body. The most common one that you’ve probably heard of is beta-carotene; this particular carotenoid has antioxidant properties, and once turned into vitamin A, the antioxidant properties belong to vitamin A. An antioxidant as any substance that neutralizes damaging free-radicals; free radicals are agents in the body can cause certain diseases, and stimulate a quicker aging process.

Food sources
Animal sources are great sources of vitamin A; these include eggs, milk, cheese, cream, meat, liver, kidney, cod, halibut, and fish oil. Keep in mind that animal foods, unless otherwise specified on the label, have a significant amount of fat, particularly saturated fat and cholesterol. Food sources of the precursors to vitamin A, such as beta-carotene, include dark green leafy vegetables, deep or bright colored fruits, carrots, and yellow vegetables. Some foods, skim milk and cereals, are fortified with vitamin A.

Recommended intake
These following are the recommendations of daily vitamin A intake for individuals of all ages.
Infants 0-6 months    400 mcg
Infants 7-12 months    500 mcg
Children 1-3 years    300 mcg
Children 4-8 years    400 mcg
Children 9-13 years    600 mcg
Males 14 + years    900 mcg
Females 14 + years    700 mcg
Pregnant/lactating women 14-18 years    750 mcg/1,200 mcg
Pregnant/lactating women 19 + years    770 mcg/1,300 mcg

Signs and Symptoms
Eye problems and susceptibility to infectious disease are the signs of vitamin A deficiency. Night blindness is the first and most common sign and symptom of vitamin A deficiency; it is due to impaired dark adaptation of the eyes. Xerophthalmia, which is due to the keratinization of the eyes, involves drying and thickening of the conjunctiva and corneas. Bitot’s spots, which are foamy patches of epithelial debris noticeable on the conjunctiva, will also develop. If the deficiency is not treated, eventually the cornea will become hazy and erode, a process called keratomalacia. Other symptoms might include dry eyes, eye or cornea inflammation, rough or dry skin, vulnerability to respiratory infection or urinary infection, and poor growth in infants and children.

The causes of vitamin A deficiency include inadequate intake, malabsorption of fat, and liver disorder.

The treatment for vitamin A deficiency usually involves a special vitamin A supplement. It is called vitamin A palmitate. It is very important that if you suspect a deficiency in vitamin A in you or someone close to you, that help is sought immediately. Fortunately, the symptoms are easy to identify, but unfortunately, treatment is need right away for a full recovery if one is still possible.

Last updated on Nov 21st, 2010 and filed under Vitamins and Minerals. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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