Vitamins are organic compounds, required by our body in small amounts. These vital nutrients are not produced by the body in sufficient amount and must be obtained from food. Vitamin A, which includes retinol, retinoic acid and retinal, is a group of organic compounds. It is important for healthy eyes, healthy immune system and growth of the body. Vitamin A is not produced by human body and therefore, it has to be included in your diet. Food items rich in vitamin A include milk, fish-liver oil, green leafy vegetables and eggs. Beta-carotene, an organic compound found in red-orange colored vegetables and fruits, can be converted into vitamin A in our body. Foods rich in beta-carotene include carrots, pumpkin, papaya and sweet potato. (ALSO READ Top 5 foods rich in Vitamin A that you should include in your diet).

Vitamin A deficiency is caused by lack of or low levels of vitamin A and it can lead to many healthy issues including night blindness. It ups the risk of infant mortality. Deficiency of vitamin A can be classified as primary or secondary deficiency. A primary vitamin A deficiency is caused due to inadequate consumption of foods rich in vitamin A. Secondary vitamin A deficiency is caused by exposure to oxidants like excessive alcohol drinking and cigarette smoke, blotched production and release of bile and mal-absorption of lipids.

What are the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency?

Vitamin A

Vitamin A

The symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include

1. Xerophthalmia or Dry eyes: Dry eyes are caused due to the loss of the goblet cells present in the outer membrane of the eyes. Goblet cells causes release of mucus that keeps the eyes lubricated. The lost or dead goblet cells may start accumulating on the eye’s outer membrane and this can lead to an infection of loss of sight. (ALSO READ Best Foods with Vitamin C: Top 10 fruits and vegetables that are rich in Vitamin C).

2. Poor vision at night:  In this condition, a person might have normal vision during the day but may not see properly at night or dimly lit space. At reduced illumination, the person may not be able to identify the outlines of an object.

Vitamin A-rich vegetables

Vitamin A-rich vegetables

3. Dry hair and skin: Deficiency of vitamin A can cause itchy and dry skin and scalp. You hair will also be dry.

4. Severe damage to the eyesight: Retina present in your eyes requires vitamin A in the form of retinal. After combining with opsin, a protein, retinal forms light-absorbing compound called rhodopsin and this compound is important for color and low-light vision. The lack or low level of vitamin A damages the retina and the vision is severely impaired. (ALSO READ Best iron-rich foods to boost haemoglobin: Top 10 foods to improve haemoglobin levels in blood).

5. Eye inflammation: Vitamin A deficiency may cause corneal as well as eye inflammation as the eyelids as well as other tissue around the eyelids are affected by the lack of vitamin A.

6. Halted growth: Vitamin A is important for growth and development and its deficiency may cause growth to halt. (ALSO SEE 10 vegetarian protein-rich foods).

7. Increases the risk of urinary and respiratory infection: As vitamin A is required for the maintenance of the immune system, its deficiency may up the risk of urinary and respiratory infections. It also increases the chances of death due to diarrhea, measles and malaria.

According to UNICEF, deficiency of vitamin A is the main cause of childhood blindness, which is easily preventable. Vitamin A deficiency in pregnant women may lead to maternal mortality and night blindness. (ALSO READ Best Avocado Hacks: Top 5 quick ways to include avocados in breakfast foods and snacks).

What are the treatments for vitamin A deficiency?

Fruits rich in vitamin A

Fruits rich in vitamin A

Mild form of vitamin A is easily treatable with foods rich in the vitamin or with vitamin supplements. You can consume fortified milk, liver, carrots, green leafy vegetables, eggs, mangoes and pumpkin. Make sure that you are not consuming excess vitamin A and it meets the daily recommended values. This is especially vital for nursing mother and pregnant women for normal breast milk production and development of the fetus. Excessive vitamin A can lead to birth defects. (ALSO READ: Easy Apple Recipes for Weight Loss: 4 ingenious and healthy ways of eating apples while dieting).

How to prevent vitamin A deficiency?

Carrots

To prevent vitamin A deficiency, you must east foods rich in vitamin A. Make sure you are eating the recommended five servings of vegetables and fruits every day. Eat red-yellow colored fruits and vegetable as it contains beta-carotene. For people in the high-risk group, vitamin A supplements can lower mortality and loss of vision.

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