Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, important for various functions in the body like proper vision, a strong immune system, reproduction, and good skin.
There are two types of vitamin A in foods – preformed vitamin A and provitamin A. Preformed vitamin A is commonly known as retinol and is found in meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
The body also converts carotenoids in plant foods (red, green, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables) into vitamin A. Vitamin deficiency disease is rare in developed countries, people in developing countries do not get enough vitamin A.
People who have higher chances of suffering from vitamin A deficiency include pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, infants and children. Cystic fibrosis and chronic diarrhoea may also increase your risk of deficiency.
Let's have a look at the signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency.
Dry skin: Vitamin A plays an essential role in the creation and repair of skin cells that help fight inflammation caused due to various skin issues.
Lack of vitamin A increases the risk for the development of eczema and other skin problems. Eczema is characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. Though dry skin can also be a result of various other issues.
Dry eyes: Eye problems are quite common when it comes to problems caused due to vitamin A deficiency. According to US NIH, extreme cases of vitamin A deficiency can also lead to dying corneas accompanied by Bitot's spots, or complete blindness.
Dry eyes are characterised by the inability to produce tears, though vitamin A supplements can improve the condition.
Infertility: Women with vitamin A deficiency may face difficulty in conceiving and the lack of vitamin A deficiency can result in infertility in both men and women. It also increases the risk of miscarriages. Research proves that vitamin A deficiency may have embryos with birth defects.
Other research recommends that infertile men may need more antioxidants due to higher levels of oxidative stress in their bodies and Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant in the body.
Night blindness: Extreme vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness. Several studies show that night blindness is quite prevalent in developing nations due to which health professionals have worked to improve vitamin A levels in people at risk of night blindness.
Vitamin A in the form of food or supplements helps improve the condition. People's ability to adapt to darkness increases by over 50% over a few weeks of treatment.
Stunted growth: When children do not get enough portions of vitamin A in their diet, they may experience stunted growth. It is because vitamin A plays an important role in the development of the human body.
Though research proves that vitamin A supplements with other nutrients can help improve growth.
Poor wound healing: If your wound isn't healing properly after an injury or surgery, there are chances you might be suffering from vitamin A deficiency as well. Retinoids regulate the growth and development of cells in the body and a lack of nutrient can cause abnormal epithelial keratinisation.
Acne and poor skin: Vitamin A promotes the production of collagen, which is important for healthy skin. Moreover, low levels of vitamin A are associated with acne. Vitamin A promotes skin development and fights inflammation.