How do you know you have a vitamin A deficiency?

By | May 16, 2023

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin found naturally in many of the foods we eat. It is important for a strong immune system, healthy vision, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the lungs, heart, and kidneys work properly.

The two types of vitamin A found in foods are preformed vitamin A and provitamin A:

  • Preformed vitamin A is found in foods of animal origin, such as meat and dairy products.
  • Provitamin A is found in foods of plant origin such as fruits and vegetables. The most common form of provitamin A found in foods and supplements is beta-carotene.

Vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed countries. Globally, however, it is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies. Pregnant women and children are at the highest risk of vitamin A deficiency. 2 This article will discuss the signs, causes, complications, and treatment of vitamin A deficiency.

What is vitamin A deficiency?

Vitamin A deficiency generally occurs when a person does not consume enough vitamin A-rich foods to meet their body’s required needs. Although rare in developed countries, it remains very common in low-income countries where residents do not have access to dietary sources of preformed vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids.

Signs and symptoms

Depending on the severity of the deficiency, the signs and symptoms may vary. Early signs of vitamin A deficiency include difficulty seeing at night, dry eyes, and dry skin.

Dry eye can progress to night blindness or difficulty seeing in low light. If the deficiency is not treated, it can lead to complete loss of vision.

Studies also show that vitamin A deficiency is linked to emphysema and other respiratory diseases, including childhood asthma. Therefore, vitamin A supplementation is recommended in high-risk populations for the treatment and prevention of lung diseases.

Other symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Increase in infections
  • Dry skin and hair

Causes and risk factors

Pregnant and lactating women, infants, and young children in developing countries are most at risk of vitamin A deficiency. An estimated 50% of preschool-age children and pregnant mothers worldwide are at risk . In fact, vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of childhood blindness worldwide.

Furthermore, premature babies who do not have adequate stores of vitamin A in the liver are likely to develop a deficiency during their first year of life. Over time, vitamin A deficiency can lead to complications if left untreated.

In addition to vision loss, children with vitamin A deficiency are at increased risk of stunted growth. Vitamin A deficiency reduces the ability to fight disease and infection. This can lead to increased mortality in children with common childhood infections. Vitamin A deficiency is also associated with deaths in pregnancy and other negative consequences during pregnancy and lactation.

Diagnosis and evaluation

Vitamin A deficiency is more common if you have an underlying condition that puts you at higher risk of developing a deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins. If this is the case, you should have regular tests to make sure you are not nutrient deficient.

If you are experiencing symptoms related to vitamin A deficiency, such as night blindness or Bitot’s spots, be sure to contact your doctor as soon as possible for an evaluation.

treatment and prevention

The best way to prevent a vitamin A deficiency is to eat a nutrient-dense, well-balanced diet. Vitamin A is found in many of the foods we eat. It is also added to certain foods such as cereals, juices, and milk. Foods rich in vitamin A

  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli
  • Orange and yellow vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash
  • Melon
  • mango
  • Apricot
  • Dairy products
  • beef liver and offal
  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Tomatoes

For most people, eating a healthy diet will generally ensure that they meet their daily vitamin A needs to prevent a deficiency. Make sure your diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.

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