Vitamin A Deficiency

The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 250 million children worldwide are threatened by vitamin A deficiency. However, it is relatively rare in developed countries and is usually limited to those who have absorption difficulties, liver disease or who drink a lot of alcohol. Vitamin A deficiency is common in alcoholics and contributes to some of the disorders of alcoholism Such as night blindness, skin problems, cirrhosis of the liver and susceptibility to infections.


One of the first symptoms of deficiency is night blindness due to lack of visual purple. Prolonged deficiency leads to xerophthalmia, a condition in which eyes become dry, ulcers appear on the cornea, the eyelids become swollen and sticky, and which eventually leads to blindness. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading preventable cause of blindness in developing countries.

Vitamin A DeficiencySkin

Prolonged deficiency leads to thickened dry skin which is prone to infections.
Small hardened bumps of a protein known as keratin may develop around the hair follicles.


Deficiency causes growth retardation; weight loss; diarrhea, thickening of bone shafts; congenital malformations; impaired hearing, taste and smell; wasting of testicles; and reduced sperm count. Inadequate vitamin A intake can lead to improper tooth formation in children and to gum disease.

Immune system

Epithelial surfaces are adversely affected by vitamin A deficiency, causing increased susceptibility to skin and respiratory infections. Immune cells and
antibody functions are also affected which may lead to an increase in pre cancerous cells in the epithelial tissues of the mouth, throat and lungs.

Many studies have shown that vitamin A deficiency is associated with increased risk of infection in developing countries. This may also be the case in
developed countries. A 1992 study involving 20 children with measles in Long Beach, California found that half of them were vitamin A deficient.

Vitamin A deficiency is often seen in HIV-positive people and this may be due to metabolic changes associated with HIV infection. A1995 study done on
HIV-infected drug users in the US found that there was a higher risk of death in those with vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency is often seen in HIV-
positive pregnant women and severe deficiency increases infant mortality and the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Thyroid gland

A deficiency of vitamin A can contribute to lower levels of active thyroid hormone with symptoms of low body temperature, depression, difficulty with weight loss, headaches and lethargy.


Several population studies suggest links between low vitamin A intakes and various types of cancer, particularly those of the lungs, head and neck. Vitamin
A deficiency may also increase the risk of breast cancer. In a study published in 1997, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health compared the concen-
trations of various forms of vitamin A in the breast fat tissue from 46 cancer patients and 63 women with benign breast lumps. They found an increased risk
of disease in those with low levels of vitamin A.

Other disorders

Low blood levels of vitamin A may be associated with the development of heart disease. Researchers involved in a 1997 study done in Madrid, Spain
looked at vitamin A levels in 62 heart attack patients and compared these with levels in 62 people free of heart disease. The results showed that vitamin A
levels in heart attack patients were almost 25 per cent lower. Vitamin A levels have also been found to be low in rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus
erythematosus sufferers. Vitamin A metabolism may be altered in diabetics.

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Vitamin A Categories:

Vitamin A
Vitamin A Health
Vitamin A Absorption
Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A Sources
Vitamin A Recommended Daily
Vitamin A Overdose
Vitamin A Interactions
Vitamin A Dangerous



Other Vitamins:

Vitamin A
Beta carotene
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B12
Pantothenic acid
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K