What is Vitamin A and How Do You Become Deficient?
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant and fat-soluble vitamin that helps maintain proper body functions like immune function, reproduction, growth and development, organ function, and vision. You become vitamin A-deficient when your diet is poor.
Possible Vision Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to a variety of general health complications such as poor wound healing, infertility, and throat and chest infections, but it can also have a major impact on your eyesight. Typical symptoms of vitamin A deficiency are:
- Dry eyes
In extreme cases, vitamin A deficiency can cause additional damage to the eye and contribute toward corneal ulcers and total blindness.
Causes of Vitamin A Deficiency
Aside from poor diet, some groups of people are at greater risk for vitamin A deficiency:
- People in developing countries
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding mothers
- People who suffer from cystic fibrosis
- People who suffer from chronic diarrhea
You can maintain a healthy balance of vitamin A through your diet. There are two types of ingestible vitamin A: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A. Preformed vitamin A (or retinol) is found in meat, fish, egg, and dairy products. Provitamin A occurs when the body converts carotenoids into vitamin A in orange, red, yellow, and green vegetables and fruits, like pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, carrots, squash, papayas, and mangoes. Click here for a list of seasonal produce that is good for your eyesight.
The common way of reversing vitamin A deficiency, aside from a change in diet, is by taking supplements.
While maintaining healthy levels of vitamin A is crucial for your health, there are dangers of taking too much vitamin A. Hypervitaminosis A, or vitamin A toxicity, often occurs when patients take high dose supplements without proper supervision. With the excesss vitamin A being stored in the liver, people with hypervitaminosis A can experience vision problems, dry and rough skin, mouth ulcers, swelling of bones, confusion, and, if pregnant, birth defects. It’s rare to get too much vitamin A from diet alone.
Consult with your healthcare provider about necessity, dosage, and safe practices before starting a vitamin A supplement.