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Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A is a necessary fat-soluble vitamin that helps to protect and improve eye health. Other Vitamin A benefits include helping to boost the immune system and being vital for reproduction (1).

It is rare to be deficient in vitamin A, but it can happen. Vitamin A insufficiency is much more common among many people. Insufficiency is different from a deficiency in that the signs and symptoms are more severe.

There are many signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency. It is necessary to get adequate levels of vitamin A in your daily routine to avoid illness, maintain healthy skin, and much more (2).

Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms

Keep in mind that it is easier to take too much vitamin A than it is other vitamins that are water-soluble. That is because vitamin A is fat-soluble instead of water-soluble. You can excrete water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C through urine and sweat. It is typically difficult to take too much of a water-soluble vitamin for that reason.

Always remember that too much vitamin A from supplements can do a lot of harm to the body. An adequate amount from food is the best place to start getting more vitamin A.

Do you think you are getting too little vitamin in your diet? Learn more about the signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency below.

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency

Although vitamin A deficiency is rare, it is possible. However, it is the most common in those with gastrointestinal diseases or issues.

Gastrointestinal diseases or issues like intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut, affect the gut microbiome (3, 4). When you have something like leaky gut, it affects what vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you can fully absorb into your cells.

Leaky gut allows food particles to enter freely through the bloodstream, where they should normally be blocked off. This allows downstream issues that can result in malabsorption of nutrients and much more.

 

Vitamin A deficiency affects the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes, so many of the signs and symptoms are present there (5). Some common signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include:

  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Dry lips
  • Night blindness
  • Xerophthalmia (6) (The inability to see in low light, which mostly affects pregnant women.)
  • Keratinization of major systems in the body, such as the urinary tract and digestive tract
  • Keratomalacia (Drying and clouding of the cornea)
  • Hazy vision
  • Impaired immunity (which can lead to further infections)
  • Growth spurts or developmental delays in children

Vitamin A is a crucial vitamin for everyone, but as you can see, there is a major highlight of how necessary it is for pregnant women. These signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency prove just how necessary it is to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

It is important to remember that vitamin A must be in balance with other essential vitamins and minerals in the body, too. Other vitamins necessary for boosting the immune system, growth, and development include vitamin D, vitamin E, and more.

Without the proper balance of nutrients in the body, it is impossible to attain and maintain adequate levels of key nutrients, especially vitamin A.

Eating a diet high in processed and refined foods makes room for intestinal permeability or leaky gut, too. That can in turn lead to vitamin A deficiency or insufficiency at some point down the road.

How is Vitamin A Deficiency Diagnosed?

Vitamin A gets diagnosed through a simple blood test. You can ask your Doctor or Healthcare Professional to test your vitamin A levels at your routine visit if you suspect you may be low in this crucial vitamin.

Although vitamin A deficiency is a clinical diagnosis, it is not typically on a regular routine blood workup. It can be helpful to speak with your healthcare provider if you suspect a deficiency or insufficiency in vitamin A, D, zinc, or iron.

Certain medications can interact with vitamin A levels in the body, so it is important to keep that in mind as well. One example of this includes the regular use of acne medication (7). Using retinoids like that can impair your vitamin A levels.

There are also many other interactions, where vitamin A can react with other medications, too. Be cautious of blood clot medications like anticoagulants, drugs used for liver damage, topical cancer drugs, and more.

Normal levels of vitamin A should be under 28 ug/dl, but it should not be too low. If it is extremely low, it could be because of an underlying disease, which would need to be addressed right away by a doctor.

Vitamin A deficiency gets treated with oral supplementation and a change in diet. There are many foods high in vitamin A that can help to boost your overall levels. Read more about the importance of vitamin A and how you can get more in your diet below.

The Importance of Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays an important role in maintaining adequate levels throughout tissues, cells, and the body overall. It is necessary to ward off illnesses, keep your immunity up, maintain and boost eye health, skin health, and more.

Too much vitamin A is also an issue at times. It is rare as well but be sure to never exceed the upper recommended limit of 10,000 mcg of vitamin A through supplementation. Eating too many vitamins A food is not typically possible.

Taking too much vitamin A can cause bone thinning, liver damage, diarrhea, headache, nausea, skin inflammation or irritation, joint pain, and birth defects.

If you keep a healthy balanced diet with plenty of vitamin A and be cautious about the amount and dosage in your supplements, you should get enough vitamin A in your diet.

Many foods are high in vitamin A. These include eggs, cod liver oil, cheese, butter, chicken, beef, and especially the liver, fortified cereals, skim milk, dark leafy greens like bok choy, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, carrot juice, oranges, and other yellow fruits and vegetables.

If you ever experience eye strain, acne, and low immune function, it may be time to add a multi-vitamin with vitamin A in your life.

The daily recommended intake of vitamin A for men is 900 mcg and for women who are not pregnant, it is 700 mcg per day. Continue to eat a healthy diet and determine if it is necessary to supplement with this crucial vitamin.

Conclusion

Vitamin A deficiency is typically rare, but it is possible, especially among pregnant women. Those with gastrointestinal problems can also be at a greater risk of vitamin A deficiency.

If you want to make sure you maintain your eye health, prevent illnesses from the flu to a common cold, and cancer, make sure to add more vitamin A foods to your diet.

Always remember to consider your diet and supplementation and ask your doctor or healthcare professional if you are unsure what your levels are. Checking your vitamin and micronutrient levels once a year is ideal for overall good health.

Remember to eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and other foods high in vitamin A to meet your daily recommended requirement.

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, and written, fact-checked & medically reviewed by health experts.

Throughout this article, you'll find scientific references (clickable links to highly trusted peer-reviewed scientific papers, links denoted by the numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3)).