VITAMIN A DEFICIENCY
What is Vitamin A ?
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is required for normal reproduction, good vision, growth, increasing hemoglobin and to maintain the body immunity.
How does Vitamin A deficiency occur ?
Vitamin A is present in foods of animal origin. It is also present in plants, bacteria, algae and fungi. Vitamin A deficiency occurs due to eating a diet with poor Vitamin A content, or due to chronic digestive system problem or due to liver disease.
What are the symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency ?
A child with Vitamin A usually presents with night blindness. Subsequently the conjunctiva appears dry, lusterless, wrinkled and dirty brown in colour (conjunctival Xerosis). This may then worsen to form a fine white greasy substance which is triangular in area on the conjunctiva known as Bitot's spots. If the cornea is involved, it may lead to drying, ulceration and softening (Keratomalacia). In severe stages, the cornea may be completely damaged leading to blindness and destruction of entire eye (Xerophthalmia).
In addition patients may have dry scaly skin known as toad skin or phrynoderma and increased susceptibility to infection. Also kidney stones may occur more frequently.
How is the diagnosis of Vitamin A deficiency made ?
The diagnosis of Vitamin A deficiency is usually clinical. In addition, blood vitamin A levels and conjunctival examination are other tests that may aid in diagnosis.
What is the treatment of Vitamin A deficiency ?
Prevention of Vitamin A deficiency is the best policy. For treatment of Vitamin A deficiency, high doses of Vitamin A supplementation either by mouth or by injection is required. In addition, supplementation of other fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin D, E and K may also be required. A word of caution: Vitamin A supplementation should be done under a doctor's guidance as over dosage may lead to toxicity and other problems.
Last updated on 1-5-2006