- Vitamin A is an essential vitamin that helps promote good vision, sustain a strong immune system, support the body’s ability reproduce, and ensure skin health.
- If you’re not getting enough vitamin A, you might notice changes in your eyesight, especially in dim lighting.
- A vitamin A deficiency might also lead to a weakened immune system.
- Vitamin A deficiencies are rare in developed countries.
Vitamin A helps promote good vision, a strong immune system, and skin health. Most people can get all the vitamin A they need by eating foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, and cantaloupes.
Though vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed countries — the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that less than 1% of the American population is deficient — some people are at risk of being deficient in this crucial vitamin.
People who are very young, pregnant, breast-feeding, or suffering from a liver or malabsorption condition are most likely to have a vitamin A deficiency. In fact, Unicef found that one in six pregnant women worldwide aren’t getting enough vitamin A from their diet.
INSIDER consulted with doctors and nutritionists to find out what kind of signs and symptoms you might notice if you’re not getting enough vitamin A.
Poor vision is one of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency.
Even though vitamin A deficiency is extremely rare in developed countries, one of the first symptoms of a deficiency is usually problems seeing or eye discomfort.
“Changes in vision are often the first noticeable sign of vitamin A deficiency. You may notice that you can’t see as well at night, or that your eyes are dry and get irritated easily,” Dr. Khalid Saeed, DO, told INSIDER.
If you’ve noticed a change in your vision or worsening sight, you should discuss the possibility of a vitamin A deficiency with your doctor.
Night blindness is a common symptom of vitamin A deficiency.
Many people are first alerted that they may have a vitamin A deficiency by the onset of night blindness.
“Night blindness, known as nyctalopia, is where the eyes struggle to adjust to dim light. This means that in low-light situations, things can appear almost pitch black to someone with a vitamin A deficiency,” general practitioner Dr. Don Grant told INSIDER.
This means that driving at night might suddenly be much more difficult for someone with a vitamin A deficiency, and their eyes might take much longer to adjust between brightly lit and dim areas.
“Rod cells in the retina contain a receptor-protein that is synthesized from vitamin A and is regenerated in the absence of light. A lack of vitamin A causes lower rhodopsin levels leading to night blindness,” explained Dr. Grant.
Night blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency can progress to permanent vision loss, so it’s important to check in with your doctor and a nutritionist if you’re worried you’re not getting enough of this vitamin from your diet.
A lack of vitamin A can make your eyes dry.
Dry, itchy eyes can be caused by a number of things including fatigue, eye strain, and dry weather. Being deficient in vitamin A, however, can also cause dryness of the eyes.
“Medically known as xerophthalmia, those suffering from the condition lose the ability to produce tears. This leads to the conjunctiva, where the whites of your eyes becoming very dry and often appearing wrinkled,” said Dr. Grant.
Xerophthalmia is caused by low levels of retinoic acid, which is produced in the body from vitamin A. If you don’t have enough of the vitamin, your eyes might become itchy and inflamed.
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Source: Business Insider (BusinessInsider.com)