Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient your body requires for the healthy growth and maintenance of skeletal tissues, skin, and the proper functioning of the eyes. While we don’t need a lot of Vitamin A in our bodies, not enough can lead to some serious health conditions.

Where to Find Vitamin A

Vitamin A, also called retinol, is found in animal foods, like liver, butter, egg yolks, and oily fish. It is also found in leafy green vegetables, and some yellow and orange vegetables and fruits, like mangos. The most common form of Vitamin A is beta-carotene. The daily recommended intake is 0.-7 mg for women and 0.9 mg for men. A healthy diet that incorporates a wide variety of foods like colourful vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean meats, and reduced-fat dairy products is the best way to get enough Vitamin A.

Vitamin A and the Eye

Vitamin A is fundamental to the proper functioning of the eye and its response to light. In the eye, Vitamin A is an essential component that helps the eye’s photoreceptors work correctly; it helps our eyes process light.  As well as being directly helpful for sight, animal studies have shown that Vitamin A affects the growth of the eyes.

A deficiency in Vitamin A can lead to some serious eye conditions, such as age-related maculopathy and age-related macular degeneration. Though uncommon in developed countries, extreme deprivation of Vitamin A can lead to severe visual impairment, night-blindness, keratomalacia (a condition where the cells on the eye produce a dry or ulcerated cornea), impaired dark and light adaptation, and even complete blindness.

Additionally, people without enough Vitamin A are more susceptible to dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common eye problems and its severity can range from being mildly annoying to debilitating. Dry eye occurs when the tear film, the coating layer of tears on the ye, breaks down or becomes unhealthy. Vitamin A can not only help prevent the onset of dry eye syndrome, but one study showed that the application of Vitamin A is an effective treatment of the disorder and led to significant improvement in blurred vision and the health of the outer layer of the eye.

Vitamin A as Eye Treatment

Beyond the use of Vitamin A for the treatment of dry eye, it has been shown to be valuable in the treatment of other disorders.  One clinical trial found Vitamin A to be particularly helpful in treating a terrible disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. This disease can begin as night-blindness and progress to central vision loss. The study found that special doses of Vitamin A might be useful in combating the debilitating disease.

Importantly, Vitamin A has been demonstrated to prevent cataracts. Cataracts are the biggest cause of preventable blindness worldwide. A study that examined the use of multivitamins that included Vitamin A showed that it was associated with the prevention of nuclear cataracts.

Too Little or Too Much Vitamin A

Despite the relative abundance of Vitamin A in a balanced diet, there are still those individuals who can’t absorb it effectively from their foods. Some risk factors of malabsorption of Vitamin A are heavy alcohol use, conditions like anorexia nervosa, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, coeliac disease, and recent gastrointestinal surgery. Vitamin A deficiency will usually first present as trouble seeing at night and will be diagnosed with the aid of a blood test. If you do have a deficiency, your doctor might prescribe you a Vitamin A supplement.

Just taking more Vitamin A doesn’t mean you’ll help your eyesight more. In fact, it is important that you don’t over consume Vitamin A. Complications from too much of it can lead to nausea, hair loss, blurred eyesight, orange skin colour, and difficulty with motor control.