Vitamin A for Eyes
Disclaimer: This content has been produced purely for informational and educational purposes only and is never intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical guidelines including diagnosis, advice, and treatment.
Although vitamin A is essential for many different aspects of bodily functions such as the immune system, reproduction, hair growth, and skin health, the benefits of vitamin A for the eyes are the most acclaimed and widely promoted. It plays an important role in the development and protection of the eyes and is also critical for maintaining vision. But how does it work? Keep reading to explore with us.
In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of taking vitamin A for the eyes along with the necessary precautions. But before we get into how vitamin A can help with eye health, it’s worth knowing what exactly vitamin A is. So, let’s dig a little deeper.
Table of contents
- What is vitamin A?
- Types and forms of vitamin A
- What does vitamin A do in the body?
- Benefits of vitamin A for eyes
- Vitamin A deficiency and eye problems
- How to get enough vitamin A
- Precautions and side effects
- Final words
What is vitamin A?
Vitamin A, also commonly known as retinol, is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that regulates nearly each and every cell division and growth throughout the body. While vitamin A is important for human health, it’s a somewhat misinterpreted nutrient. People often hear about vitamin A toxicity, but the deficiency or low levels of vitamin A are much larger issues and are often overlooked.
Although it's not difficult to get enough vitamin A from diets, most people aren't getting enough of it, especially in infancy and early childhood. It's why several health organizations listed its deficiency concerns and daily recommendations.
Types and forms of vitamin A
Vitamin A isn’t a solo component, indeed, it’s a group of several fat-soluble molecules that come in many forms. There are two major classifications of vitamin A:
Preformed vitamin A - the active forms of vitamin A that the human body can use more readily. A group of molecules such as retinol, retinoic acid, and retinal that are collectively called retinoids falls into this category. Retinoids are found only in animal-based foods such as fish, eggs, cod liver oil, and dairy products.
Provitamin A - the inactive forms of vitamin A that the human body needs to convert into active forms of vitamin A. Some carotenoids act as provitamin A that is converted into preformed forms of vitamin A on reaching the human intestine. Beta-carotene is the most efficient provitamin A that’s widely found only in colorful vegetables and fruits such as carrots, cantaloupe, pumpkins, and summer and winter squash.
What does vitamin A do in the body?
Vitamin A contributes to a wide variety of important bodily functions in the body. It’s an essential nutrient for the development and protection of the eyes and for maintaining healthy vision. Besides, it also takes part in immune function, cell division, growth, and reproduction.
Vitamin A plays an important role in stimulating the formation of white blood cells, protecting the epithelial cells that line various body parts such as the nose and mouth, and remodeling bones.
Finally, vitamin A itself is a tremendous antioxidant that helps protect cells and tissues from the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen-containing molecules that cause oxidative chain reactions that may result in serious health issues including heart disease and cancer. By scavaging free radicals, vitamin A helps prevent the risk of developing these diseases.
Benefits of vitamin A for eyes
Vitamin A can help the eyes in many different ways. Some common benefits of vitamin A for the eyes may include:
- Stimulates the production of tear fluids and moisture that helps keep the eyes well-hydrated and lubricated and thereby, reduces the risk of dry eyes or xerophthalmia.
- Assists the production of photoreceptor rhodopsin in the retina, enabling the eyes to see in dim light conditions or in night vision. Absent of rhodopsin may lead to night blindness.
- Helps soothe inflammation in the eyes through anti-inflammatory actions and helps prevent eye infections.
- Helps prevent and manage several eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataract, myopia, and vision loss.
- Protects and supports the function of the cornea, the protective layer of the eyes.
Vitamin A deficiency and eye problems
Deficiency or low levels of vitamin A may lead to an increased risk of various eye complications, including, but aren’t limited to:
- Dry eyes or xerophthalmia
- Night blindness
- Corneal ulcer
- Vision loss
- Eye inflammations
- Eye infections
- Macular degeneration
How to get enough vitamin A
In order to obtain enough naturally occurring vitamin A from foods, a healthy and varied diet is important and of course the best possible way to get it. But people with a poor or limited diet might require vitamin A supplements that are available as retinol or beta-carotene (provitamin A) supplements.
Certain health conditions such as measles, pancreatic disease, and eye disease also enhance the requirement for vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A supplements might be a great option for the treatment and management of these conditions.
The recommended dietary allowance, also known as RDA, of vitamin A for adult men is 900 mcg and for adult women is 700 mcg a day. But actual doses of vitamin A supplements are individual and might vary from person to person based on specific health conditions and requirements.
Precautions and side effects
Vitamin A is likely safe when taken as recommended. But intake of preformed vitamin A such as retinol in excessive amounts may lead to vitamin A toxicity, which may show up various symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bone pain, and blurry sight. This is why provitamin A, mainly beta-carotene, is considered safer and preferable than preformed ones as an oral supplement.
However, it’s always important to consider working with a qualified natural medicine expert before taking forms of vitamin A to determine the safety profile and best method of use.
The benefits of vitamin A for the eyes are quite impressive that might be helpful in many different ways ranging from eye development to eye protection to eye disease prevention. When it comes to vitamin A supplements, provitamin A, mostly beta-carotene supplements are considered a much better and safer option since excess preformed vitamin A may lead to toxicity. Consider working with a professional natural health practitioner prior to using beta-carotene or any form of vitamin A.
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