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Deficiency of vitamin A should not be taken lightly as it has the capability of disrupting normal life. Health problems caused as a result of deficiency in vitamin A include night blindness, Bitot's spots, conjunctival xerosis, ulceration, corneal scars, among others.
What is vitamin A deficiency?
A prolonged dietary deficiency is usually the cause of vitamin A deficiency. This is the case especially when a person's staple food is rice, as it does not contain carotene. Therefore, one must be aware of signs and symptoms in order to treat the deficiency in the best way possible.
Some of the early symptoms associated with eye changes include burning, itching and eyelid inflammation.
A prolonged state of vitamin A deficiency leads to blindness. This results in a person not being able to see well when there is a dim light burning. This particularly happens after the person is exposed to bright light.
Further, pregnant women suffer from night blindness owing to excess vitamin A demand during their pregnancy. Also, night blindness can result from a physical defect in the eye. It is referred to as 'functional night blindness.'
This condition occurs as a result of prolonged and severe vitamin A deficiency. This occurs owing to certain changes in the eye's epithelial tissues. The cornea becomes wrinkled, hazy, dry and pigmented. The tear glands will not be able to secrete tears which help keep the eyes moist. It is important for the eyes to remain moist as it helps wash away bacteria and other matter to prevent inflamed and dry eyelids. Ulceration occurs as a result of this inflammation.
Xerophthalmia can also be associated with Bitot's spots which can be characterized as greyish irregular areas found in the cornea. However, they do not tamper with your vision.
It should be noted that a vitamin A deficiency can also result in the hardening or degeneration of the epithelium (type of tissue). When this occurs, the cells are flattened and usually accumulate on each other to form a heap. Therefore, a person is then prone to several infections concerning the eye, sinuses, middle ear, mouth and lungs, among others. As a result, the epithelium of the eye can also get damaged.
Vitamin A deficiency could also lead to Xerod erma (dry skin which results in itching) as well as follicular hyperkeratosis (a skin condition characterized by excessive development of keratin in hair follicles). The keratin layers on the soles and palms thicken, owing to this deficiency.
Respiratory tract changes
When there is deficiency of vitamin A, it usually leads to a condition where the linings of the nose, throat and bronchi become rough and dry. It increases the respiratory tract's chances of falling prey to bacterial infection.
Alimentary tract changes
The alimentary tract also dries up due to a deficiency of vitamin A. This results in reduction in the secretion of digestive juices, less absorption while increasing a person's chances of being affected by intestinal infections and diarrhoea.
Reproductive tract changes
The condition referred to as keratinizing metaplasia, usually occurs in the renal pelvis, uterus, bladder oviduct as well as the accessory sex glands. As a result, females can experience vaginitis due to vitamin A deficiency,.
This condition leads to the presence of urinary calculi or stones. These stones are composed of calcium phosphate.
Skeletal system changes
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to an irregular development of the skeleton, which also includes the vertebral column and skull. When this occurs, one can expect a distortion of the spinal cord and brain. Teeth and bone growth are also impaired owing to this deficiency.
Increases chances of falling prey to infection
Vitamin A is a necessary requirement when it comes to the functioning and maintenance of the body's mucous membranes. If there is vitamin A deficiency, the membranes are usually left dry, porous, thin and flaky. This prevents them from performing their protective functions, leading to an onslaught from the bacteria that have easy access as a result. Therefore, a deficiency will lead to you falling prey to certain infections.
Photo source: Getty images
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