Vitamin A deficiency can cause vision problems

4 Sep 2011

Early diagnosis and treatment of vitamin A deficiency can preserve vision and life, according to a case report in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.

Dr Stephanie Watson and co-authors, from the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, reviewed a case report of a middle-aged man who presented with a three-day history of tunnel vision and night blindness.

Investigations found that the patient had a vitamin A deficiency, which was causing his visual symptoms. He had previously been diagnosed with other nutritional deficiencies.

“Vitamin A deficiency is a systemic illness that can increase an individual’s risk of blindness, severe infections and mortality,” Dr Watson said.

“It is rare in developed countries like Australia.

“Visual symptoms can often be the first manifestation of a systemic illness, such as vitamin A deficiency.”

Dr Watson said vitamin A deficiencies are generally reported in patients with malabsorption syndromes, liver disease, alcoholism, those who have had major gastrointestinal surgery, anorexia nervosa and other psychiatric disorders.

“This case is unique because our patient did not have any of these risk factors. His deficiency was due to a severely restricted diet from age 18 months of age,” Dr Watson said.

“This case also highlights the importance of clinicians regularly taking a thorough dietary history, especially in the context of other indications of nutritional deficiencies.”

The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.

The statements or opinions that are expressed in the MJA  reflect the views of the authors and do not represent the official policy of the AMA unless that is so stated.


CONTACT:     Dr Stephanie Watson                            0400 050 480 / 02 9389 0666

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