Are You Getting Enough Vitamin A? Why ths Vitamin Is So Important for Your Eyes
Your eyes may suffer if your diet is too low in vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency could affect your ability to see well at night and may even cause blindness in extreme cases.
The Role of Vitamin A in Vision
Vitamin A, found naturally in food, helps keep many of the body's systems functioning normally, including the immune and reproductive systems. This vitamin is essential for the health of your organs, is necessary for normal growth and development, and is crucial for good vision.
Vitamin A helps you maintain good vision by:
- Supporting Night Vision. Without vitamin A, it would be impossible to make rhodopsin, a substance required for good vision when it's dark or the lights are low. In fact, night blindness can occur if the rod cells in the retina don't have enough rhodopsin. The rods, along with the cone cells, are photoreceptor cells that absorb light. Rods are responsible for night vision, while the cones play an important role in color vision. Both of these photoreceptor cells are found in the retina, a layer of light-sensing tissue at the back of the eye.
- Keeping Your Eyes Moist. Dry eyes are more than just an uncomfortable inconvenience. Severe dry eye can cause sores on the cornea that scar as they heal, interfering with clear vision. Vitamin A moistens the surface of the eye, helping you avoid dry eyes. Tear quality improved in research study subjects with dry eye after taking vitamin A supplements, according to a study published in Clinical Ophthalmology.
- Preventing Blindness. Vitamin A moistens the entire eye, not just the cornea. Damage to the retina can occur if it becomes too dry due to vitamin A deficiency. Vision loss or blindness can occur as a result.
- Stopping Infections. The tear film in your eyes washes away germs that could cause eye infections. If your eyes are too dry, you may be more likely to develop an infection that could threaten your vision. Luckily, vitamin A lubricates the eyes and reduces your risk of infections.
- Treating Rare Eye Diseases. Vitamin A palmitate, an easily absorbable form of the vitamin, could slow the progression of retinitis pigmentosa, a rare, inherited disorder that affects peripheral (side) and night vision, notes the Foundation Fighting Blindness. A treatment made with a modified form of vitamin A also slowed retinal shrinkage in patients with Stargardt's disease during a clinical trial conducted by Alkeus Pharmaceuticals. Stargardt's disease, another rare, inherited eye disease, causes central vision loss. If you have either of these diseases or another eye disease, don't start taking vitamin A before first speaking to your optometrist
Do You Know How Much Vitamin A You Need?
According to the National Institutes of Health, adult males need 900 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A daily, while adult females need 700 mcgs. The recommended daily amount in children varies from 400 mcg at birth to 300 mcg from ages 1 to 3 to 600 mcg from ages 9 - 13. Teenagers need more vitamin A, as do pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Vitamin A, or substances called carotenoids that can be converted into vitamin A, are found in many foods, including:
- Fortified Milk and Cereal
- Sweet Potatoes
Most people get all the vitamin A they need from their diet. If you aren't getting enough vitamin A, your doctor may recommend supplements. Although supplements can be helpful, they may cause health problems at high dosages. WebMD reports that too much vitamin A can cause headaches, confusion, vomiting, joint pain, dry skin, liver problems, birth defects, and bone density issues. Vitamin A may also interfere with some medications, like cancer drugs, birth control pills, and blood thinners.
Protect your eyes by eating foods high in vitamin A and scheduling yearly checks up with the optometrist. Call our office to make your appointment.
Clinical Ophthalmology: Effects of Short-Term Oral Vitamin Supplementation on the Ocular Tear Film in Patients with Dry Eye, 4/10/2019
Foundation Fighting Blindness: Encouraging Clinical Trial Results for Alkeus' Stargardt Disease Treatment, 5/2/2022
Foundation Fighting Blindness: What Everyone with a Retinal Disease Should Know About Vitamin A, 3/10/2015
National Institutes of Health: Vitamin A and Carotenoids, 8/12/2022
American Academy of Ophthalmology: What Is Vitamin A Deficiency?, 5/2/2023
All About Vision: Eye Benefits of Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene, 2/27/2019