Vitamin A deficiency: symptoms and remedies

Vitamin A deficiency: symptoms and remedies

There vitamin A it is a fat-soluble organic compound which is very important in our body, being in fact necessary for the proper functioning of the eyes and epithelial tissues. Converted in the body from dietary beta-carotene and 3 other carotenoids, 80-90% of vitamin A is stored in the liver.

Vitamin A is also called retinol and, in addition to its original form, several natural and synthetic compounds derived from retinol, and known as retinoids, can be easily traced. Think of retinaldehyde, isotretinoin or acitretin.

What is vitamin A deficiency?

Having clarified the above, let's try to deal with the central theme of our in-depth study today, namely the vitamin A deficiency.

Starting from the evidence that a normal vitamin A / retinol level is between 28-86 μg / dL, it follows that vitamin A deficiency can be defined as the condition in which the serum retinol levels are below 28 μg / dL. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to blindness, skin disease and growth retardation in children.

What Causes Vitamin A Deficiency?

There are numerous causes of vitamin A deficiency but, in essence, the primary vitamin A deficiency it is caused by prolonged food deprivation. In addition, the secondary vitamin A deficiency it is caused by the reduction of the absorption, storage or transport of vitamin A.

Who suffers from vitamin A deficiency?

For the above reasons it follows that vitamin A deficiency is prevalent in Africa and Southeast Asia, where an estimated 250 million preschool children suffer from this deficiency due to a lack of carotenoids in their diets. Symptoms are aggravated by a severe infection, especially measles.

However, vitamin A deficiency can also affect many adults who are affected by diseases of the gastrointestinal system that are able to interfere with the absorption of vitamin A. Some of the best known examples include:

  • celiac disease,
  • cirrhosis of the liver,
  • pancreatic insufficiency,
  • bile duct disorder,
  • duodenal bypass.

The list of determinants is obviously not finished here and, in order to have a focus on the matter, we recommend our readers to contact their referring physician.

What are the signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency?

Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children around the world. It follows that one of the main complications of the prolonged vitamin A deficiency it is precisely the damage to the eyes, such as impaired adaptation to the dark (so-called night blindness) due to the lack of the photoreceptor pigment rhodopsin, or xerophthalmia, or a dry and thickened conjunctiva and cornea.

Also possible signs of vitamin A deficiency are bituminous spots, keratinized growths (metaplasia) on the conjunctiva that cause hazy vision, and keratomalacia, or a condition caused by corneal erosions and ulcerations.

Vitamin A deficiency is also recognized for its keratinizing effect on the skin and mucous membranes and, therefore, for dry, scaly, thickened skin with prominent follicular scales, dry lips and thickened tongue, keratinization of the urinary, gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts.

Other symptoms and signs of vitamin A deficiency are impaired immunity leading to gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections, and stunted children

How is vitamin A deficiency diagnosed?

There diagnosis of vitamin A deficiency It is usually clinical considering that many of the above symptoms and signs can be easily traced back to other conditions (for example, impaired dark adaptation is very indicative of vitamin A deficiency, but can also occur with therapeutic use of retinoids - for example isotretinoin prescribed for acne. The finding of xerophthalmia and dry skin is indicative of vitamin A deficiency, but may be due to other causes, and so on).

Measurement of serum vitamin A / retinol is useful if levels are below 28 μg / dL, but the result may be normal if the deficiency is mild. Low levels of retinol are indicative of advanced disease, as circulating levels of vitamin A do not drop until the liver supplies of vitamin A are depleted. The diagnosis is confirmed by the therapeutic response to the supplementation of vitamin A.

How is vitamin A deficiency treated?

Vitamin A deficiency is treated with vitamin A oil at a dosage of 60,000 IU orally for 2 days, and then to the extent of 4,500 IU orally per day.

An alternative dosage is:

  • 50,000 IU for children under 6 months of age
  • 100,000 IU for infants aged 6-12 months
  • 200,000 IU for 12 months until adulthood

Vitamin A deficiency can be prevented through a diet that includes:

  • spinach, kale, broccoli and other green leafy vegetables
  • fruits rich in beta-carotene, such as apricots or peaches, and vegetables such as carrots, squash, sweet potato
  • milk or cereals that have been enriched with vitamin A
  • liver
  • egg yolks
  • fish liver oils

In developing countries, successful preventive measures include:

  • encouragement of breastfeeding
  • periodic administration of high-dose vitamin A for children
  • encouragement to families to grow fruit and vegetables for food supplementation.

Video: Vitamin A:Function, metabolism u0026 deficiency (January 2022).