You might have heard people saying that vitamin A is essential for eyesight. That is true because it is a component of rhodopsin, a pigment in the retina that allows you to see in reduced light conditions. A deficiency of this vitamin can harm your eye health.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that it needs fat for its digestion and absorption. Apart from improving vision, this vitamin is important for a strong immune system and improved reproduction health, among other bodily functions. Preformed vitamin A and provitamin A are the main types of this vitamin. Preformed vitamin A is mainly found in eggs, fish, and meat, while provitamin A is converted from carotenoids in foods like vegetables and fruits. Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the developed world, but still, many people don’t get enough of it, leading to its deficiency. This article explains the main signs and symptoms of vitamin A.
1. Dry Skin
Vitamin A is involved in the formation and repair of skin cells. It also lowers inflammation caused by certain skin diseases. Not getting enough vitamin A may lead to eczema and other serious skin problems. Eczema is a skin disease characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. Studies suggest that taking alitretinoin, which is made with vitamin A can significantly treat eczema. According to the National Institutes of Health, alitretinoin can reduce the symptoms of eczema by 53 percent. Noteworthy, dry skin can be caused by several things, but lacking vitamin A chronically can be the main reason.
2. Dry Eyes
Problems in the eye are one of the common issues associated with a deficiency of vitamin A. In severe cases, lack of vitamin A may lead to xerophthalmia – a condition in which your tear ducts dry out. Overtime, this may lead to drying of corneas – the outer covering of your eyes – characterized by Bitot’s spots. Vitamin A deficiency usually present with dry eyes in its initial stages. Xerophthalmia is a common condition in young children in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, where the deficiency of vitamin A is rampant. If you feel that you are not getting enough vitamin A from your foods, you can buy its supplements, which in fact, have been shown to reduce dry eyes by up to 63 percent.
3. Night Blindness
Besides leading to dry eyes, extreme deficiency of vitamin A can cause night blindness. A bunch of observational studies have shown that night blindness is highly prevalent in developing countries. For this reason, health authorities have put measures in place to increase intake of vitamin A in people at risk of night blindness. Studies suggest that supplementing with vitamin A can increase darkness adaptation by 50 percent.
4. Infertility and Trouble Getting Pregnant
Vitamin A is important for a healthy reproductive system, both in men and women. It also promotes growth and development in babies. If you are struggling to get pregnant, not getting enough vitamin A may be one of the reasons why. A deficiency of this important vitamin can cause infertility in both men and women. Rat studies suggest that lack of vitamin A can make it difficult to get pregnant, and if at all you become pregnant, then the embryo may have defects. Evidence suggest that men have high levels of oxidative stress calling for a greater intake of antioxidants. Vitamin A is a nutrient with powerful antioxidant properties. Other research suggest that a deficiency of vitamin A can lead to miscarriages.
5. Retarded Growth
Delayed growth is a common problem in children with vitamin A deficiency. The reason being, vitamin is an important nutrient that supports development of the body. Researchers believe that supplementing with vitamin A can significantly improve growth. This claim is based on study findings that were conducted in children in third world countries. One study in Indonesia among children at risk of vitamin A and those with stunted growth, found that taking high amounts of vitamin A could increase growth by 0.39 cm. A greater result can be achieved by combining supplements of vitamin A and other nutrients.
6. Throat and Chest Infections
While lack of vitamin C may be a risk of respiratory diseases, not getting enough vitamin A can may contribute frequent throat and chest infections. Vitamin A supplements have been shown to be effective at managing respiratory tract infections, however, study findings are contending. One study found that 10,000 IU of vitamin A can reduce episodes of vitamin A in underweight children. On the other hand, study suggest that giving children supplements of vitamin A can highly predispose them to throat and chest infections by 8 percent. It is thus important to give supplements of vitamin A to children who are truly deficient in the nutrient.
7. Poor Wound Healing
Slow and delayed healing of wounds after an injury may be related to several factors, but a deficiency of vitamin A may be one of the reasons why. This is because vitamin A is important for the formation of collagen – a type of protein that binds open wounds together and gives your skin a firm and healthy structure. Research suggests that taking vitamin A – via the mouth or applied on the skin – may help strengthen skin. Additionally, applying vitamin A directly to the skin can help prevent wounds in people with diabetes. In older adults, the same effects may apply, as studies indicate that it can reduce their size of wounds by 50 percent.
Foods High In Vitamin A
Getting enough vitamin A can prevent these conditions and reduce their risk. The recommended daily intake of vitamin A is 900 mcg and 700 mcg for men and women respectively. Adolescents and children should aim for 300-600 mcg. You can easily meet this requirement by eating foods, such as tuna, salmon, beef, liver, cod liver oil, kale, spinach, collards, sweet potato, mango, apricot, papaya, grapefruit, tangerine, guava, and passion fruit.
Vitamin A is an important nutrient for overall health. It promotes skin health, body growth, and boosts the immune system. Not getting enough vitamin A can lead to dry skin, night blindness, and increased chest and respiratory infections.