Vitamin A deficiency: Not seeing well at night is among the ‘first signs’ of sight loss

Dr Oscar Duke issues warning over ‘fizzy’ vitamins

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The Mayo Clinic explains vitamin A is a nutrient important to vision, growth, cell division, reproduction and immunity. It says: “Vitamin A also has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that might protect your cells against the effects of free radicals.” It explains free radicals might play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

The Whittington Hospital NHS Trust says “changes in vision are often the first noticeable sign of vitamin A deficiency”.

The Trust explains you may notice that you cannot see as well at night, for example it may be harder to drive at night, or you may not be able to easily find your way to the bathroom.

It adds: “Sometimes in early vitamin A deficiency people also get dry hair, dry mouth, dry/itchy/bumpy skin, broken nails, and more frequent infections.

“If vitamin A deficiency is severe or is allowed to progress, serious problems can develop. The most serious problem is permanent blindness.”

The Trust says that some other symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include:

• Loss of tears
• Sores in the eyes
• Fatigue
• Dry cracked lips, mouth sores
• Diarrhoea
• Bladder infections
• Vaginal infections
• Upper/lower respiratory infections
• Poor and delayed wound healing.

Fortunately, the Mayo Clinic says vitamin A is found in many foods, such as spinach, dairy products and liver.

It adds: “Other sources are foods rich in beta-carotene, such as green leafy vegetables, carrots and cantaloupe. Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.”

The Mayo Clinic states: “As an oral supplement, vitamin A mainly benefits people who have a poor or limited diet or who have a condition that increases the need for vitamin A, such as pancreatic disease, eye disease or measles.

“If you take vitamin A for its antioxidant properties, keep in mind that the supplement might not offer the same benefits as naturally occurring antioxidants in food.”

The recommended daily amount of vitamin A is 900 micrograms (mcg) for adult men and 700mcg for adult women, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The Whittington Hospital NHS Trust says: “If you are pregnant, it is important talk to your doctor about how much vitamin A is safe to take.

“Retinol at levels above 10,000IU can be a problem in pregnancy. There is no safety issue with beta-carotene in pregnancy.”

The Trust says if you have vitamin A deficiency, your doctor will probably ask you to take supplemental vitamin A and watch your dietary intake. It says most of the time if you are deficient, your doctor will ask you to take retinol instead of betacarotene.

The Mayo Clinic says: “A healthy and varied diet will provide most people with enough vitamin A.

“If you’re interested in the antioxidant properties of vitamin A, food sources are best.

“It’s not clear if vitamin A supplements offer the same benefits as naturally occurring antioxidants in food.

“Too much vitamin A can be harmful and excess vitamin A during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects.”

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