What is Vitamin A Deficiency?

Deficiency of vitamin A is a condition in which your body lacks the necessary levels of vitamin A that it needs for performing certain essential bodily functions. In case your regular diet does not contain adequate amounts of this vitamin, it will lead to a deficiency over time. 

The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A is 900 mcg RAE for men and 700 mcg RAE for women. Foods like sweet potato, spinach, carrots and milk are rich sources of this vitamin. To learn more about the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency and how to prevent it, check out this article. 

Vitamin A Deficiency Treatment

Deficiency of Vitamin A - Symptoms & Related Health Risks

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Vitamin A deficiency is a condition in which the intake of Vitamin A is considerably below the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) over a prolonged period. The World Health Organization defines Vitamin A deficiency as a condition in which serum retinol concentration falls below 0.70 micromoles/litre. Did you know, India has the highest prevalence of clinical Vitamin A deficiency in South Asia? The world over, Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness. This deficiency is particularly severe among children and women of child-bearing age resulting in serious health issues such as night blindness, anemia, skin infections and even high infant mortality rates. Read on to find out more about the importance of this crucial nutrient and how to prevent its deficiency in the body.

How Much Vitamin A Do You Need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A varies with age and gender. In general the following guidelines are prescribed for each category:


  • Adult Males: For adult males the RDA is 900-3000 micrograms per day.

  • Adult Females: For adult females the RDA is between 750-2800 micrograms per day. Pregnant and lactating women need significantly more vitamin A in their diets.

  • Children: Children aged between 1-8 years need between 300- 800 micrograms per day of vitamin A.

Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency

The most common symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency include;

  • Xerophthalmia

Xerophthalmia is a condition caused by the deficiency of Vitamin A in which the cornea of the eyes becomes dry and thick eventually leading to blindness.

  • Night Blindness & Dry Skin

Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness, poor vision, and dry skin. This is because Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy eyes and skin and a deficiency of vitamin A causes diseases of the eye and skin.

  • Stunted Growth & Infertility

Stunted growth in children and infertility in adult men is a common symptom of Vitamin A deficiency as Vitamin A is essential for growth and reproductive functions.

  • Hair Loss

Vitamin A deficiency can lead to premature hair loss and poor wound healing.

Health Risks of Vitamin A Deficiency

A lack of vitamin A poses serious health risks, especially among children. Some of the common health risks associated with Vitamin A deficiency are:

  • Xerophthalmia

Vitamin A deficiency can lead to a condition called xerophthalmia characterised by drying and hardening of the cornea.

  • Blindness

Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide.

  • Infant Mortality

Vitamin A deficiency also results in high infant mortality rates. It is essential that infants be breastfed for up to 6 months to prevent vitamin A deficiency and associated health risks.

  • Anemia

A lack of vitamin A in the body has also been associated with a greater prevalence of anemia as vitamin A helps in mobilizing iron from the cells. Many foods rich in vitamin A such as green leafy vegetables, liver, and dairy products also tend to be good sources of dietary iron. Therefore a lack of intake of vitamin A rich foods is also likely to cause a concomitant deficiency of iron in the body.

Causes of Vitamin A Deficiency

The primary cause of vitamin A deficiency is malnutrition. Among adults, a poor diet that lacks green leafy vegetables, dairy products, and meat can lead to vitamin A deficiency over a period of time. Excess consumption of alcohol can also lead to a deficiency of vitamin A in the body. For adults, it is important to consume a balanced and diversified diet and limit the consumption of alcohol.

Among infants, lack of access to breast milk can lead to vitamin A deficiency. It is important to raise infants on breast milk for the first six months, starting from the first hour of birth.

Tests for Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency in the body is measured by the serum retinol concentration. A serum retinol concentration below 0.70 micromoles per litre is defined as a state of vitamin A deficiency in the body. It can be tested by using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).

Treatment for Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency treatment involves consuming vitamin A supplements as well as increasing the consumption of foods rich in vitamin A. Vitamin A supplements for adults are readily available in the market whereas, for infants, supplementation programs are conducted by the government to eradicate vitamin A deficiency. The most common form of Vitamin A deficiency treatment is using Vitamin A in Palmitate Oil. In children, the following dosages are prescribed:


  • 50,000 IU for infants younger than 6 months.

  • 100,000 IU for children between 6 months to 1 year.

  • 200,000 IU for children older than 1 year.

Children born of HIV positive mothers are a special risk category for Vitamin A deficiency and need to be administered up to 50,000 within the first two days of birth.

Common Food Sources of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is found abundantly in animal products, dairy, and green leafy vegetables. Among the richest sources of vitamin A are fish, liver, eggs, ghee, spinach, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, mangoes, and papaya. Many foods rich in vitamin A also provide significant amounts of iron thereby helping combat anemia as well. Some of the common Vitamin A rich foods are:


Serving Size

Vitamin A Content (% DV)

Sweet Potato

1 whole



½ cup



½ cup



1 cup



½ cup



1 whole



½ cup


How to Prevent Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency can be prevented by eating a healthy and balanced diet. It is important that infants are breastfed for the first six months as lack of access to breast milk is one of the leading causes of vitamin A deficiency among children. You should also limit consumption of alcohol as it can lead to a deficiency of vitamin A in the body when consumed in excess.


Vitamin A is a crucial nutrient required by the body to maintain healthy eyesight, healthy skin, and fight infections. A deficiency of vitamin A can have severe consequences such as poor vision, night blindness, and even premature death in infants. Vitamin A deficiency treatment includes taking supplements and eating foods rich in vitamin A such as green leafy vegetables, milk, and animal products. At the same time it is important to have a good health insurance plan in order to cover any unforeseen exigencies that may arise due to Vitamin A deficiencies. 

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