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DEFINITION – Insufficient intake or absorption of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin. This deficiency is rare in the U.S. and is usually due to failure of the intestine to absorb enough of the vitamin. Synthetic vitamin A compounds (retinoids) are being used for some skin conditions such as acne.
BODY PARTS INVOLVED – Total body tissues.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED – Both sexes; all ages.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Poor night vision.
- Dry, inflamed eyes.
- Rough skin.
- Loss of appetite.
- Decreased taste and smell.
- Poor wound healing.
- Lowered resistance to infection.
- Growth retardation in children.
- Severe deficiency can cause weak bones and teeth, corneal ulcers and corneal damage that can lead to blindness.
- Insufficient dietary intake of vitamin A.
- Poor absorption of vitamin A.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Cystic fibrosis.
- Celiac disease; sprue.
- Operations on the pancreas.
- Cirrhosis of the liver.
- Bile duct obstruction.
- Use of certain lipid-lowering drugs.
- Dietary deficiency (common in some developing countries) occurs only in people who have an exceptionally poor diet.
- Alcoholism; intravenous drug abuse.
- Fad diets.
HOW TO PREVENT
- Proper nutrition.
- Vitamin supplements if needed.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory blood studies of vitamin A levels and other medical tests to determine any underlying disorder or other cause for the symptoms.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Self-care after diagnosis.
- Doctor’s treatment.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS – If untreated, eye problems including blindness, infections and death.
PROBABLE OUTCOME – Usually curable with an adequate diet, vitamin A supplements, and treatment for any underlying disease.
How To Treat
GENERAL MEASURES – Avoid alcohol. If you need help with stopping, ask your doctor, or contact Alcoholics Anonymous.
MEDICATION – Your doctor may prescribe vitamin A tablets or injections.
ACTIVITY – Don’t drive at night if you have night vision problems.
DIET – Increase your intake of foods rich in vitamin A – even if you take vitamin A supplements. Dietary sources include: liver, fish-lever oils, egg yolk, milk and dairy products, margarine, dark green vegetables and yellow vegetable and fruits.
Call Your Doctor If
- You or your child have symptoms of vitamin A deficiency.
- Symptoms don’t improve in 1 month, despite treatment.
From the Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery by H. Winter Griffith, M.D. © 1995 The Putnam Berkley Group, Inc.; electronic rights by Medical Data Exchange.