Vitamin A, a fat soluble vitamin, is highly useful as it protects the body from a lot of health related issues. Its aids vision, skin health, helps the cells and tissues remain healthy. It also aids in immunity, pregnancy and embryonic development. It even plays a role in the metabolism of bones and acts as an antioxidant. Vitamin A aids in Haematopoiesis as well. It is essential for the upkeep and maintenance of healthy skin, bones, tissues, teeth and essentially for the eye. Retinol, a form of Vitamin A, which aids vision, especially in low light, is produced in the retina. It is also necessary for color vision. It is also called “anti-infective” vitamin because it assists the immune system of the body and helps the body against several infections.
Vitamin A deficiency is considered to be major problem, affecting more than one third of the children under the age of five. Africa and Southeast Asia are most prevalent to a deficiency. A deficiency can be either primary or secondary deficiency.
A primary deficiency occurs in children and adults who do not consume sufficient amounts of fruits or vegetables which are rich in provitamin A or animal and dairy products rich in it. A deficiency is also caused by early weaning from breast milk.
Secondary type of Vitamin A deficiency is associated with problem in production and release of bile, chronic mal-absorption of lipids, and exposure to oxidants, like cigarette smoke and alcoholism. Zinc deficiency also affect the transport, absorption and metabolism since it is necessary for the synthesis of the proteins that help transport it and also acts as the cofactor in retinol conversion to retinal.
• Night-blindness, where the deficiency of Vitamin A affects the creation of retinal and impairs vision in reduced light.
• Dryness of the eye, called xerosis.
• Cornea becomes soft and is destroyed leading to complete blindness.
• Formation of white lumps in the hair follicles, called hyperkeratosis.
• Replacement of the epithelium with keratinized epithelium which causes Bitot’s spots.
• Impairs the body’s immunity, which in turn causes ear and urinary tract infections.
• Enamel hypoplasia.
Doctors say that it is important that pregnant and breast feeding women should not suffer from deficiencies that will have a detrimental impact on the child. The fetal development may also be affected. Post natal supplements cannot counter such deficiencies.
Vitamin A deficiency symptoms show that the deficiency can be a serious problem and hence food rich in this vitamin should be made a part of the diet.