Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin and its deficiency has been associated with nutritional blindness in most of the developing countries. It plays an essential role in producing glycoprotein, which is responsible for maintaining growth, reproduction and maintaining healthy cell life.
- Deficiency of vitamin A is a major cause of night blindness among children. This means the child is not able to see properly in dim light and at night. In its early stage, there is irritation, redness, swelling and burning in the eyes. Night blindness is more common in males than in females. However, pregnant women may be more affected. People having lower strata of life are more affected.
- It is easier to detect vitamin A deficiency in children due to appearance of Bitot’s spot. They are seen as white, foamy spots on the sides of cornea and on the conjunctiva. With vitamin A deficiency the cornea becomes dry and wrinkled. Tears become less and the person always feels sensation to scratch the eyes. The eye turns sore and in extreme deficiency, you may find ulcers on cornea.
- Since vitamin A is necessary to fight infections, its deficiency may result in frequent infections. Respiratory tract is first to get affected. Person often suffers from recurrent cold and cough. Vitamin A deficiency causes dryness everywhere, and the nasal lining, bronchial lining becomes dry. It is more susceptible to infections.
- Lack of vitamin A also affects the gastrointestinal tract. ‘Dryness’ affects here too. The lining of intestine becomes dry. There is decreased secretion of gastric juice. As a result fewer nutrients are absorbed. The gastrointestinal tract becomes exposed to bacteria and germs. Frequent diarrhea and gastric infections are common.
- Dryness also affects vagina. The mucus membrane of vagina becomes dry. A woman feels soreness and itching. Vaginitis and other infections are common in woman suffering from vitamin A deficiency.
- Prolonged deficiency causes growth retardation in children. The hair becomes thin and lusterless. There is excessive dandruff. It also affects the eyebrows.
- The tongue loses its sense of taste.
Healing Properties Of Vitamin A
- Vitamin A is valuable in curing night blindness and other eye diseases.
- Asthma: Many people suffering from asthma are found to be deficient in certain important vitamins. This includes vitamin C, A and E to a lesser extent. Taking vitamin A in natural form as in fish, egg, green leafy vegetables is beneficial in controlling and curtailing episodes of asthmatic attack.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is inflammation of joints. It is a painful condition. Vitamin A has anti inflammatory properties. Thus eating foods containing vitamin A is beneficial in reducing pain and swelling, both annoying symptoms of arthritis.
- Fissures in anal region are much like those painful tears that sometimes develop at the corner of your mouth. The pain of anal fissure makes life difficult. Applying cream containing vitamin A is helpful in soothing pain as well as enhancing the healing process.
- Kidney stones: Vitamin A is necessary to keep the lining of urinary tract in shape. It is also necessary to prevent the formation of future stones. If there is history of kidney stone, be sure to include food containing vitamin A in your diet. A half cup of grated carrot or similar portion of sweet potato will provide enough vitamin A required for the day.
- Vitamin A has modulating effect on certain human cancers. It gives protection against degenerative diseases.
Important food sources of vitamin A are liver, fish, eggs, fortified milk, carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, cantaloupes, apricot, pumpkin, winter squash, red bell peppers, leafy greens, tomatoes, mangoes etc.
Since vitamin A is toxic in large doses, supplements of vitamin A should not be taken without your doctor’s supervision.