What Is Vitamin A Deficiency?

Vitamin A is found in many foods, including leafy green vegetables, orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin), eggs, and cantaloupes. A lack of access to a balanced diet with enough vitamin A can lead to vitamin A deficiency.

Vitamin A plays an important role in your vision. To see the full spectrum of light, your eye needs to produce certain pigments for the photoreceptor cells in your retina to work properly. Vitamin A deficiency stops the production of these pigments, leading to night blindness. Your eye also needs vitamin A to nourish other parts of your eye, including the cornea, the clear covering on the front of your eye. Without enough vitamin A, your eyes cannot produce enough moisture to keep them properly lubricated.

Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children worldwide. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 children become blind every year because of vitamin A deficiency. Half of these children die within a year of losing their sight.

In pregnant women, vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness and may contribute to maternal mortality. Vitamin A deficiency also compromises the immune system, increasing the chance of death from malaria, measles and diarrhea.

Vitamin A deficiency risks

Vitamin A deficiency is a significant problem in developing nations in Africa and Southeast Asia. Young children and pregnant women in low-income countries are at highest risk.