7 Signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency can harm your health without you realizing it. Let’s learn more about it in a friendly and informative way.

Imagine going through life without being able to see clearly in low light, or dealing with persistent dry skin and hair troubles. These are just a few hints of what vitamin A deficiency might throw your way.

It’s not about taking a plunge into the depths of nutrition science; it’s about knowing your body, listening to its signals, and taking action when needed.

What are the symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency?

Discover the seven vital signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency.

1. Vision issues

Your eyes rely on vitamin A to function optimally [1]. This vitamin aids in the production of a pigment called rhodopsin in the retina, which is essential for night vision.

  • Night blindness: When you’re deficient in vitamin A, your body can’t produce enough rhodopsin. As a result, your ability to see in dim light diminishes, and you experience night blindness. It’s like your internal flashlight running on low batteries.
  • Difficulty adjusting to darkness: You may find it challenging to adapt to changing light conditions, like when entering a dark room from a well-lit area.
  • Safety concerns: Dim light vision trouble can have safety implications, such as difficulty driving at night or navigating in poorly lit environments.

If you’ve noticed these vision issues, it’s time to consider your Vitamin A intake. Including vitamin A-rich foods in your diet can help restore your night vision and keep your eyesight sharp even when the lights are down low.

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2. Dry skin and lackluster hair

Vitamin A is a natural moisturizer for your body. It helps produce sebum, the oil that keeps your skin and hair hydrated and glowing.

  • Dry and flaky skin: When you lack sufficient vitamin A, your skin may become dry and flaky. You might notice patches of rough, irritated skin that’s begging for moisture.
  • Itchy skin: Dryness can also lead to itchiness, which can be quite uncomfortable and distracting.
  • Dull hair: Lackluster hair is another sign. Your locks may lose their shine, becoming brittle and prone to breakage.
  • Slow hair growth: Vitamin A deficiency can even slow down hair growth, leading to frustration for those looking for longer, healthier hair.

Don’t worry; you don’t need a fancy skincare routine or expensive hair products. Ensuring you get enough vitamin A through your diet, with foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach, can work wonders for your skin and hair, giving them the nourishment they need to shine brightly once again.

dry skin and lackluster hair
Photograph: YuriArcursPeopleimages/Envato

3. Weakened immune defense

Your immune system relies on an army of specialized cells to fend off infections. Vitamin A helps in the production and function of these immune cells, making sure they’re ready for action.

  • Susceptibility to infections: When vitamin A is in short supply, your immune response weakens. You may find yourself falling ill more frequently, experiencing longer recoveries, or struggling to shake off common infections like colds and flu.
  • Pneumonia and other complications: Severe vitamin A deficiency can even lead to more serious conditions like pneumonia, particularly in young children. Respiratory infections become harder to combat without this vital nutrient.
  • Enhancing immunity: Ensuring an adequate intake of vitamin A through your diet can boost your immune system’s ability to ward off infections, keeping you healthier and more resilient.

So, remember, vitamin A isn’t just about maintaining good vision; it’s a key player in your overall health. Including vitamin A-rich foods in your meals can help fortify your immune defenses and keep you feeling your best.

4. Stunted growth and development

Vitamin A is a growth-promoting vitamin. It’s involved in various processes that support the development of bones and tissues.

  • Impaired bone development: In children, vitamin A deficiency can hinder proper bone growth, potentially leading to shorter stature and delays in reaching growth milestones.
  • Cognitive impact: Beyond physical growth, Vitamin A also influences cognitive development [2]. Insufficient intake may affect learning abilities and cognitive functions.
  • Pregnancy concerns: For expectant mothers, vitamin A is vital for the healthy development of the fetus. Deficiency during pregnancy can lead to complications for both the mother and the baby.
  • Maintaining balance: While it’s crucial to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin A, excessive amounts can be harmful. Achieving a balance through a well-rounded diet is key.

By recognizing the impact of vitamin A on growth and development, you can make informed choices about your dietary intake.

Providing your body with the right nutrients is an investment in your health and well-being, ensuring that you and your loved ones reach your full potential.

5. Corneal ulcers and eye issues

These are painful sores that develop on the clear front surface of your eye, known as the cornea. vitamin A deficiency can weaken the protective layer of the cornea, making it more susceptible to infections and ulcers.

  • Dryness and irritation: Beyond ulcers, insufficient vitamin A can lead to dryness and irritation in your eyes. You may experience discomfort, redness, and a gritty feeling, as if there’s something in your eye.
  • Night blindness reminder: If you recall the first sign we discussed, night blindness is also a related symptom. It highlights how intertwined eye health and vitamin A are.
  • Preventing eye complications: Ensuring you get enough vitamin A in your diet is key to safeguarding your eye health. It’s a simple but effective way to keep your vision clear and your eyes comfortable.

Taking care of your eyes goes beyond just seeing well; it’s about preserving your overall quality of life. Being mindful of vitamin A intake can help you maintain sharp and healthy eyes for years to come.

6. Reproductive challenges

In men, vitamin A deficiency can lead to reduced sperm production and quality. This can result in difficulties in achieving pregnancy.

For women, inadequate vitamin A intake can disrupt the normal menstrual cycle, leading to irregularities.

During pregnancy, vitamin A deficiency can contribute to complications, potentially affecting both the mother and the baby.

  • Pregnancy complications: Pregnant women with vitamin A deficiency may face increased risks of complications such as night blindness, anemia, and a weakened immune system, which can negatively impact the health of both the mother and the developing fetus.
  • Balancing act: While vitamin A is essential for reproductive health, it’s important to strike a balance. Excessive Vitamin A intake during pregnancy can also have adverse effects. A well-rounded diet is key.

By understanding how vitamin A relates to reproductive health, you can make informed choices about your nutrition, potentially improving your chances of a healthy pregnancy and overall reproductive well-being.

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7. Altered taste and smell

Vitamin A plays a role in the health of the receptors responsible for taste and smell. When you’re deficient, these receptors may not function as effectively.

  • Changes in perception: As a result, you might notice changes in your perception of taste and smell. Foods may taste different or less flavorful, and you might struggle to identify scents as you once did.
  • Reduced appetite: Altered taste and smell can lead to a reduced appetite, making it challenging to maintain a balanced diet.
  • Nutritional impact: When you can’t fully enjoy the flavors of your meals, there’s a risk of missing out on essential nutrients, further affecting your overall health.
  • Potential impact on well-being: These changes can also impact your overall well-being, affecting your enjoyment of food and daily life.

Recognizing these alterations in your senses can be an early indicator of vitamin A deficiency. By addressing this deficiency through dietary adjustments and consulting a healthcare professional, you can potentially restore your sense of taste and smell, enhancing your overall quality of life.

altered taste and smell

How can vitamin A deficiency be prevented?

It’s time to change our focus towards a proactive approach which involves preventing issues before they occur. Preventing vitamin A deficiency is often more manageable and less challenging than addressing the symptoms later on [3]. Here are some practical steps you can take:

Diversify your diet

Incorporate a variety of vitamin A-rich foods into your meals. These include:

  • Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, and collard greens.
  • Orange and yellow vegetables: Carrots, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.
  • Fruits: Mangoes, apricots, and cantaloupes.
  • Dairy products: Milk, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Animal sources: Liver, eggs, and fatty fish like salmon.

Balanced nutrition

Ensure your overall diet is balanced, including a mix of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Don’t rely solely on supplements. While they can be useful, it’s best to obtain your nutrients from whole foods whenever possible.

Cook smart

Cooking can affect the vitamin A content of foods [4]. Steam or bake vegetables instead of boiling, as this can help retain more of their nutrients.

Breastfeeding and infant nutrition

If you’re a new mother, ensure that you breastfeed your baby, as breast milk provides essential nutrients, including vitamin A. For infants, consult with a pediatrician to ensure they receive the right nutrition and supplements as needed.

Conclusion

It’s evident that vitamin A plays a pivotal role in maintaining our health and well-being. We’ve explored how its deficiency can manifest through various signs and symptoms, from vision troubles to compromised immunity and beyond.

The good news is that taking steps to prevent vitamin A deficiency is within your reach, and it’s a smart investment in your long-term health.

Ultimately, the key to achieving better health is by gradually taking significant yet manageable actions.

By nourishing your body with the right foods and staying informed about your nutritional needs, you’re not just preventing vitamin A deficiency – you’re investing in your overall well-being.

FAQs

What are the main dietary sources of vitamin A?

Vitamin A is found in various foods, including carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, eggs, and liver.

How can I tell if I have a vitamin A deficiency?

Common signs include night blindness, dry skin, and a weakened immune system. Consult a healthcare professional for a definitive diagnosis.

Can I get too much vitamin A from my diet?

While it’s important to meet your vitamin A needs, excessive intake from supplements can be harmful. Stick to recommended daily allowances.

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[1] https://myvision.org/education/what-does-vitamin-a-do/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7828103/
[3] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23107-vitamin-a-deficiency
[4] https://saladmaster.com/en-gb/cook-more/saladmaster-blog/how-cooking-affects-the-nutritional-value-of-food

Photograph: furmanphoto/Envato
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.