Vitamin A is important for sharp vision, young-looking skin and strong immune system. The said nutrient is also a role player when it comes to the proper functioning of the digestive tract. There are various signs and symptoms that you may encounter if you fail to get enough vitamin A in the diet.
Before we tackle the various health problems related to vitamin A deficiency, let us discuss a few essential matters about this nutrient. Vitamin A is the very first vitamin identified by scientists. Being a fat-soluble vitamin, it needs to be consumed with fat in order to be absorbed by the body.
Other than including vitamin A rich-foods in the diet such as sweet potatoes, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables and fish, you may also get sufficient amounts of vitamin A by supplementing. Most multivitamins include vitamin A in their roster of nutrients although you may also come across supplements containing nothing but vitamin A.
Here’s a quick look at the proper dosing of vitamin A on a daily basis:
• Men – 900 mcg or 3,000 IU
• Women – 700 mcg or 2,300 IU
• Pregnant women 19 years of age and above – 770 mcg or 2,600 IU
• Lactating women 19 years of age and above – 1,300 mcg or 4,300 IU
It’s not unlikely for someone who is diagnosed with vitamin A deficiency to be prescribed by a doctor to increase his or her intake of vitamin A with the help of supplements.
Now that you know a few vital things about this very important nutrient, let us now take a look at some of the signs and symptoms of being deficient in vitamin A. Here they are:
Itching and Inflammation of the Eyelids
Some of the earliest symptoms of vitamin A include inflammation of the eyelids, usually accompanied by itchiness or burning sensation. Once these problems are experienced, it’s not unlikely for various eye conditions to take place.
Difficulty Seeing at Night
Medically known as nyctalopia, night blindness is characterized by the inability to properly see at night or when the light is dim. According to the experts, this condition is more common in males than in females. However, pregnant women are also at risk of suffering from night blindness due to the increased requirement of vitamin A.
An Eye Condition Known as Xeropthalmia
This problem occurs when there’s severe and prolonged vitamin A deficiency. Xeropthalmia is characterized by the cessation of the production and secretion of tears by the tear glands. It’s due to this why the conjunctiva (mucus membrane covering the eye) and cornea (transparent layer in front of the eye) end up dry and inflamed. Left untreated, xeropthalmia may lead to what’s known as keratomalacia — the destruction of the eyeball which may lead to blindness.
Excessive Dryness of the Skin
Deficiency in vitamin A may also have a profound effect on the skin. Someone who is not getting enough of the nutrient on a daily basis may suffer from hyperkeratosis which is characterized by skin that’s scaly, rough and dry. A condition known as phrynoderma may occur. Also known as toad skin, this skin problem involves the blocking of the sweat glands with plugs of keratin that look like tiny horns.
Frequent Diarrhea and Intestinal Infection
The gastrointestinal tract tends to produce less protective mucous membrane if the person is not getting sufficient amounts of vitamin A. This results in dryness of the GI tract and proliferation of microbes in the gut that leads to infection. Diarrhea is also another symptom of vitamin A deficiency.
A Weakened Immune System
When there’s vitamin A deficiency, the reduction of mucous membrane production not only happens along the gastrointestinal tract but also in other parts of the body. It’s exactly for this reason why a person who is deficient in vitamin A is very likely to suffer from frequent bacterial infections as the mucous membrane serves a major role in immunity.