Vitamin A is basically a combination of natural compounds that are essential for our body for having clear vision, for growth, repair and development, for healthy bones and skin, for maintenance of immune system and fighting off infection, and for cell division and differentiation. This vitamin can be obtained from animal products, but various plant based foods that contain beta-carotene are regenerated by the body into vitamin A.
Vitamin A contains antioxidant properties that help to neutralize free radicals in our body that damage our tissues and cells. Vitamin A can be obtained from eggs, dairy products, liver, meat etc. Plant sources of this vitamin include fresh fruits like apricot, cantaloupe, grape fruits and vegetables like spinach, carrot and broccoli.
Symptoms Of Vitamin A Deficiency
There are many symptoms that can exhibit the deficiency of vitamin A in our body. They are as follows:
Prolonged and severe deficiency can result in Xerophthalmia in which the cornea becomes dry, hazy, pigmented and wrinkled. The tear glands that keep the eye moist and free from bacteria and other foreign particles become dry. The eyelid becomes inflamed and the eye loses the glistening transparent appearance. The inflammation often leads to ulceration.
Further it can result in softening and destruction of the eye balls that leads to blindness (keratomalacia). Children between the ages of 1-5 years deficient in vitamin A are more susceptible to this condition, particularly when their diet is lacking vitamin A.
The early symptoms that affect the eye are burning, itching and inflammation of the eyelids. Various other eye conditions can follow if one’s body remains deficient in vitamin A. Prolonged deficiency of vitamin A can result in reduced vision at night or in the dim light (Nictalopia) which means one is unable to see properly in dim light, particularly after exposure to bright light. If neglected, night blindness can turn into an even more severe problem.
Another major symptom of vitamin A deficiency is hardening (keratinisation) and degeneration (atrophy) of epithelium in which the cells become flattened and get collected.This often leads to infection of the eye, middle ear, nasal passages, sinuses, respiratory tract, urinary infection or infection in the lungs. The damaged epithelium is an incurable condition.
Dry And Rough Skin
Deficiency of vitamin A can lead to dry, itchy and scaly skin. The skin of our palms and soles can become thick.
Due to deficiency of vitamin A, susceptibility towards bacterial infection in respiratory and urinary tract increases as the dryness in the linings of nose, throat, bronchi, and urinary tract increases and makes them prone to bacterial infection. In the same way, the alimentary tract too dries up and secretion of digestive juices gets restricted. The lack of absorption increases the risk of diarrheal and intestinal infection.
Halted Growth And Development In Children
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to improper growth and development in children. It is an essential nutrient for growth and development of bones and muscles in children and during their growth years, they can grow up as undersized individuals if they are deficient in this vitamin. Vitamin A deficiency is most often seen in children belonging to underdeveloped countries due to poor nutrition.
Vitamin A deficiency in developed countries can result from inflammatory diseases that damages the digestive tract and avert absorption of vitamin A. Besides this, zinc deficiency, alcoholism and pancreatic diseases can also cause vitamin A deficiency in the body.