Vitamin A Deficiency

By | June 10, 2022

Persistent vitamin A deficiency can lead to vision problems and increased susceptibility to infections. An increased risk of vitamin A deficiency occurs in: People with diseases that affect the type of food intake in the intestine, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis. Diseases affecting the liver or pancreas. People who follow a strict vegan diet. Prolonged excessive drinking or alcoholism.

What is vitamin A deficiency?

Vitamins are a group of substances that the body needs in small amounts to maintain health. Vitamin A cannot be manufactured by the human body, making it an essential part of a healthy diet. Vitamin A is important for healthy eyes, good vision, healthy skin, and for fighting infections. Vitamin A is also sometimes referred to as retinol. For carbuncle explanation, please visit

Foods that contain vitamin A are yogurt, milk, eggs, and fish liver oils. Another substance called beta-carotene, found in green lettuce and orange and yellow vegetables and fruits, can be converted to vitamin A by the body. Mild forms of vitamin A deficiency can usually be treated with no long-term effects.

Vitamin A deficiency is more common in developing countries, where it often leads to blindness and even death. The recommended daily amount of vitamin A for adults is 0.7 milligrams for men and 0.6 milligrams for women. A daily diet that includes some of the foods above is sufficient for healthy adults. Excess vitamin A is stored by the body. Therefore, you do not necessarily need the recommended amount of vitamin A every day.

A very high intake of vitamin A can lead to problems such as rough skin, dry hair and an enlarged liver. High levels of vitamin A in pregnant women can also cause the unborn baby to develop birth defects. Therefore, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not take vitamin A supplements. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should also avoid consuming liver or liver products such as liver pâté and liverwurst.


Vitamin A deficiency can be caused by prolonged insufficient intake of vitamin A. This is especially the case in cultures where rice is a major part of the diet as it does not contain carotene. Vitamin A deficiency can also occur when the body is unable to process the vitamin A from the diet.

This can occur as part of a variety of diseases including: celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, giardiasis (an infection of the gut), cirrhosis of the liver, obstruction of the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder to the gut.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Mild forms of vitamin A deficiency can lead to fatigue. Both mild and severe forms of vitamin A deficiency can increase the risk of: infections, including throat and chest infections and gastroenteritis, delayed growth and bone development in children and adolescents, infertility, miscarriage.

Severe forms of vitamin A deficiency can also cause eye and vision problems, night blindness, thinning and ulceration of the cornea on the surface of the eyes, dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea on the surface of the eyes ( xerophthalmia ), oval or triangular or irregular foamy patches on the whites of the eyes (Bitot spots).

A perforation of the cornea and severe visual impairment due to damage to the retina at the back of the eye can also occur as side effects. Dry skin, dry hair and itching (pruritus) are also common symptoms of vitamin A deficiency.

Diagnosis & course of disease

If a doctor suspects a vitamin A deficiency, they will do a blood test. First of all, the confirmation of the vitamin A deficiency is pending. After that, check if there are any symptoms such as anemia.

Further investigations will include tests of eyesight, particularly in nocturnal conditions. Serum retinol-binding protein testing is easier to perform and relatively inexpensive. Determining zinc levels can also help, since zinc deficiency interferes with the production of retinol-binding protein.

In children, x-rays of long bones can be useful to evaluate bone growth, which can be delayed in vitamin A deficiency. Morbidity increases as blindness progresses. Irreversible conditions include punctate keratopathy, keratomalacia, and corneal perforation.


Since vitamin A is involved in many metabolic reactions, a vitamin A deficiency can lead to various complications. First of all, a pronounced lack of vitamin A is manifested in the occurrence of night blindness. If the deficiency is intense and persists for a long time, the eyes will also be destroyed in the long term due to the formation of keratin in the conjunctiva and the cornea.

Increased vessel formation and infiltration of leukocytes then takes place in the cornea. This leads to edema and dissolution of the collagen matrix. The eyes are irreversibly damaged. Malnutrition and the associated reduced intake of vitamin A can therefore lead to blindness. Skin and mucous membranes also become increasingly horny if vitamin A is missing.

This cornification in turn increases the risk of cracks in the skin and mucous membrane. These skin injuries greatly increase the risk of infection. The number of mucus-producing cells also decreases. This can lead to complicated infections, especially in the respiratory organs. These are often associated with extensive necrosis (cell death).

As a result, persistent pneumonia can develop, which can sometimes be fatal. Frequently occurring urinary tract infections increase the risk of developing bladder stones, among other things. Another complication that can occur with vitamin A deficiency is extra bone formation in the ear. By crowding nerves, it can also lead to deafness or blindness.

When should you go to the doctor?

The affected person should always consult a doctor in the event of a vitamin A deficiency. In most cases, this disease cannot heal on its own, so treatment by a doctor is always necessary. The earlier the affected person consults a doctor, the better the further course is, so that the patient should consult a doctor at the first sign of the deficiency. A doctor should be consulted for vitamin A deficiency if the person concerned frequently suffers from various infections.

It also often leads to broken bones and delayed growth in children. Those affected also very often show infertility or an increased number of miscarriages. In the eyes, vitamin A deficiency can lead to visual problems or even night blindness, so that a doctor should also be consulted if you have these problems. Furthermore, very dry skin and severe itching on the skin also indicate this deficiency.

In the case of these complaints, a general practitioner or a pediatrician can be consulted in the first place. The further treatment then depends heavily on the cause of the vitamin A deficiency, so that no general prediction can be made about the further course.

Treatment & Therapy

Treatment for mild forms of vitamin A deficiency includes eating foods rich in vitamin A — for example, liver, beef, chicken, eggs, milk, carrots, mangoes, sweet potatoes, and green leafy vegetables. If vitamin A deficiency is already causing more severe symptoms, treatment also includes taking vitamin A supplements by mouth daily.

Severe forms of vitamin A deficiency can cause permanent vision loss if treatment with vitamin A supplements is not started early. If mild eye problems occur early on, treatment can result in full recovery without any permanent vision loss.


A regular intake of vitamin A-rich foods will usually prevent vitamin A deficiency from developing in the first place, unless a chronic condition prevents the body from getting the vitamin A it needs from the diet. It is recommended to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Vitamin A is commonly added to various foods such as breakfast cereals, pastries, breads, cookies and fitness bars. For people with a generally increased risk, especially children, vitamin A supplements can be an adequate addition to the regular diet.


A vitamin A deficiency does not require comprehensive follow-up care. If the deficiency is corrected at an early stage, there will be no subsequent symptoms or health complications. Only in the case of severe deficiency symptoms, which may have already caused subsequent symptoms, does further follow-up care make sense. For example, impaired vision or inflammation of the mucous membranes must be examined by a doctor.

As part of the aftercare, the specialist can examine the affected body regions, take blood and, if necessary, arrange for a CT scan. The aim is to fully capture the symptom picture. The symptoms can then be alleviated by targeted measures. The intensity and duration of the therapy depends on how severe the deficiency symptoms are.

If you are tired or have trouble concentrating, a clarifying discussion with your doctor is usually sufficient. Light medication may be prescribed under certain circumstances. Talking to a nutritionist can also be part of the aftercare. During follow-up care, it must be ensured that the patient does not develop a vitamin A deficiency again.

Comprehensive advice from a nutritionist and, if necessary, from other specialists ensures this. Follow-up care is provided by the family doctor or the responsible specialist if severe symptoms occur. Since the susceptibility to infection increases with a vitamin A deficiency, people with previous illnesses may need to consult their doctor again.

You can do that yourself

A vitamin A deficiency can be compensated for by those affected themselves. A change in diet is usually sufficient. The diet must contain a lot of animal foods, especially dairy products, fish, liver and lean meat. Food rich in vitamin A should be stored in the fridge in the dark and closed, as the substance is sensitive to light and oxygen. In the case of noticeable deficiency symptoms, dietary supplements with vitamin A or beta-carotene are recommended. The use of supplements should be discussed with the doctor to avoid overdosing. Pregnant women are particularly at risk and should speak to their gynecologist or general practitioner in the event of deficiency symptoms.

Accompanying the causal treatment, the symptoms must be cured. Reduced vision can be temporarily reduced with corrective lenses or the use of eye drops. If you are tired and weak, rest and rest are recommended. If muscle problems occur, massages and hot baths can help . Dry skin can be treated with a suitable care product from the drugstore or the homeopathic cabinet. If you have trouble breathing, a walk in the fresh air will help. Signs of anemia require a medical evaluation. The same applies to persistent exhaustion, lack of concentration or inflammation of the mucous membrane and skin.

Vitamin A Deficiency