VITAMIN A: DEFICIENCY DISEASES, PREVENTION, CURE & TREATMENT
What are vitamins?
A Vitamin is an essential organic substance required for normal functioning of the body, it’s growth & maintenance of the body’s tissues. These are the micronutrients (nutrients required in small amounts) that are indispensable in the human diet as most of these are not synthesized by the human body in sufficient quantities.
Vitamins are of 2 types:
- Fat soluble vitamins: Vitamin a,d,e,k, etc.
- Water-soluble vitamins: Vitamin b,c, biotin, folic acid ,etc.
FUNCTIONS OF VITAMIN-A:
- Vitamin A plays an important role in our vision. It occurs in the retina of the eye and is required in the process of vision to adjust to the varying light intensity (dark adaptation).
- Vitamin A is required for health & maintenance of the cells (especially for epithelium cells). Epithelial cells cover the body externally in the form of skin. Vitamin A also lines the mucous membrane of the different passages in our body.
- Vitamin A plays a vital role in embryonic development. It is also involved in the development of eyes, limbs, cardiovascular system and the nervous system.
- Development and maintenance of the bones is dependent on the adequate supply of vitamin-A. It is also known to participate in bone remodeling.
- Vitamin A helps improve the body’s resistance to infection.
Why Is Vitamin-A important for you?
- Vitamin –A Deficiency is also known is VAD. It is mostly observed in children. Globally millions of children are estimated to have a vitamin-A deficiency.Persisting of its deficiency may ultimately result in blindness. It is rare in infants but preschoolers are at the major risk of being affected. There is a progressive increase in the prevalence up to the age of 12-13 years.
- In vitamin A deficiency, the mucous forming cells deteriorate and no longer synthesize mucous. This results in loss of lubrication that greatly affects the cornea of the eye.
- NIGHT BLINDNESS is an early symptom of VAD.You might wonder, none of us can actually see in the dark. Does that mean we all have Vitamin-A deficiency? Actually, the term ‘night blindness’ means the inability to see in dim light. Thus, in a dimly lit room or a street, a healthy individual can make out the shapes of object lying around, which a person with VAD cannot. VAD thus, can result in serious consequences, the worst-case scenario being total and permanent loss of vision
- Vitamin-A deficiency produces skin changes. These are referred to as follicular hyperkeratosis. In this condition, keratin, a protein accumulates around the hair follicles, which become plugged, give a bumpy appearance & rough texture to the skin.
- Low intake of vitamin A in pregnant & lactating mother results in their children born with poor liver stores of Vitamin-A.
PREVENTION OF VITAMIN-A DEFICIENCY DISEASES
Vitamin-A deficiency is one of the easily preventable nutrition disorders. Several strategies can be used to control its deficiency:
- Dietary modification to promote the production & consumption of vitamin -A rich foods.
- Fortification of commonly and widely consumed food with Vitamin-A
- Periodic delivery of massive doses of Vitamin-A.
Dietary modification is the most rational and sustainable long-term solution to control VAD.
Vitamin-A is present in animal food as well as in plants. Animal foods include liver, which is the richest source of Vitamin-A. Other sources are egg yolk, ghee, butter, curd, and milk. Pro-vitamin A is present in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek, mustard greens, orange & yellow fruits &vegetables like mango, papaya, musk melon, peaches, apricots, carrots, pumpkin, etc.
Fortification of widely used foods is another strategy to control VAD. In some countries, foods like vegetable oil, bread & milk are fortified with Vitamin-A on a limited scale. Food ingredients like sugar are also being used as vehicles for fortification.
Massive doses of vitamin a are delivered to preschool children in rural areas of India under national prophylaxis program for prevention of blindness due to vitamin a deficiency (NPPVAD). You can check with your doctor to know how it is administered in your country.
TREATMENT OF VITAMIN-A DEFICIENCY DISEASES
Vitamin A deficiency can be treated with vitamin A supplements. The amount of dosage of the supplements depends on the age of the child. Supplements can reverse night blindness and help the eyes become properly lubricated again. However, this is not something to be done at home, a doctor should be consulted and such prescriptions should be taken only under a medical practitioner’s guidance and advice from your doctor.
International organizations are working to address vitamin A deficiency for at-risk populations, and seek to promote prevention through adequate diet and vitamin supplements.
WITH ALL THESE TIPS, EAT HEALTHY & STAY HEALTHY!
Proofread and edited by Samara Vivian