Vitamin A

8 Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms You Should be Aware of

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for many bodily functions, including proper vision, a strong immune system, reproduction, and good skin health. While vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed countries, many people in developing countries do not get enough vitamin A. Those at the highest risk of showing vitamin A deficiency symptoms are pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, infants, and children. Cystic fibrosis and chronic diarrhea may also increase your risk of deficiency.

There are two types of vitamin A found in foods:

  • Preformed vitamin A: Preformed vitamin A is also known as retinol and is commonly found in meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
  • Provitamin A: The body converts Provitamin A carotenoids in plant foods, such as red, green, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables, into vitamin A.

There are different signs and symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency. Read on to learn about them.

Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms

Here are 8 symptoms and signs of vitamin A deficiency that you must remember:


  • Dry Skin

Vitamin A is important for the creation and repair of skin cells. It also helps fight inflammation due to certain skin issues. Not getting enough vitamin A may happen to be the cause for the development of eczema and other skin problems.

Eczema is a condition that causes dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. Several clinical studies have shown Alitretinoin, a prescription medication with vitamin A activity, to be effective in treating eczema. In a 12-week study, people with chronic eczema who took 10–40 mg of alitretinoin per day experienced up to a 53% reduction in their symptoms.

Dry skin can be caused due to many factors but chronic vitamin A deficiency may also be the reason.


  • Dry Eyes

Eye problems are some of the most well-known signs of vitamin A deficiency. In extreme cases, not getting enough vitamin A can lead to complete blindness or dying corneas, which are characterized by marks called Bitot’s spots. Dry eyes or the inability to produce tears are one of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency.

Young children in India, Africa, and Southeast Asia who have diets lacking in vitamin A are at the most risk of developing dry eyes. Supplementing with vitamin A can improve this condition. One study found that high doses of vitamin A decreased the prevalence of dry eyes by 63% among infants and children who took supplements for 16 months.


  • Night Blindness

Severe vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness. Several observational studies have reported a high prevalence of night blindness in developing nations. Due to the extent of this problem, health professionals have worked to improve vitamin A levels in people at risk of night blindness.

In one study, women with night blindness were given vitamin A in the form of food or supplements. Both forms of vitamin A improved the condition. The women’s ability to adapt to darkness increased by over 50% over six weeks of treatment.


  • Infertility and Trouble Conceiving

Vitamin A is necessary for reproduction in both men and women as well as proper development in babies. If you are having trouble getting pregnant, a lack of vitamin A may be one of the reasons. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to infertility in both men and women.

Studies show that female rats with vitamin A deficiency symptoms have difficulty getting pregnant and may have embryos with birth defects. Other research suggests that infertile men may have a greater need for antioxidants due to higher levels of oxidative stress in their bodies. Vitamin A is one of the nutrients that act as an antioxidant in the body.

Vitamin A deficiency is also related to miscarriages. A study that analyzed the blood levels of different nutrients in women who had recurrent miscarriages found that they had low levels of vitamin A.


  • Delayed Growth

Children who face vitamin A deficiency symptoms may experience stunted growth. This is because vitamin A is necessary for the proper development of the human body.

Several studies have shown that vitamin A supplements, alone or with other nutrients, can improve growth. Most of these studies were conducted on children in developing nations. In fact, a study on over 1,000 children in Indonesia found that those with vitamin A deficiency who took high-dose supplements over four months grew 0.15 inches (0.39 cm) more than children who took a placebo.

However, a review of studies found that supplementing with vitamin A in combination with other nutrients may have a greater impact on growth than supplementing with vitamin A alone. For example, children with stunted growth in South Africa who received multiple vitamins and minerals had length-for-age scores that were half a point better than those who received only vitamin A.


  • Throat and Chest Infections

Frequent infections, especially in the throat or chest, maybe a sign of vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A supplements may help with respiratory tract infections but research results are mixed.

A study in children in Ecuador showed that underweight children who took 10,000 IU of vitamin A per week had fewer respiratory infections than those who received a placebo. On the other hand, a review of studies in children found that vitamin A supplements may increase the risk of developing throat and chest infections by 8%.

The authors suggested that supplements should only be given to those with true deficiency. Furthermore, according to one study on elderly people, high blood levels of the provitamin A carotenoid beta-carotene may protect against respiratory infections.


  • Poor Wound Healing

Wounds that do not heal well after injury or surgery may be linked to low vitamin A levels. This is because vitamin A promotes the creation of collagen, an important component of healthy skin. Research suggests that both oral and topical vitamin A can strengthen skin.

A study on rats found that oral vitamin A improved collagen production. The vitamin had this effect even though the rats were taking steroids, which can inhibit wound healing. Additional research on rats found that treating skin with topical vitamin A appeared to prevent wounds associated with diabetes.

Research in humans shows similar results. Elderly men who treated wounds with topical vitamin A had a 50% reduction in the size of their wounds, compared to men who did not use the cream.


  • Acne and Breakouts

Since vitamin A promotes skin development and fights inflammation, it may help prevent or treat acne. Multiple studies have linked low vitamin A levels to the presence of acne.

In one study on 200 adults, vitamin A levels in those with acne were over 80 mcg lower than in those without the condition. Topical and oral vitamin A may treat acne. Research shows that creams containing vitamin A can reduce the number of acne lesions by 50%.

The most well-known form of oral vitamin A used to treat acne is Isotretinoin or Accutane. This medication can be very effective at treating acne but may have a number of side effects, including mood changes and birth defects.

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