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Dry Eyes From a Vitamin A Deficiency

By Kate Beck

The front of your eye has a clear lubrication that coats the surface, and this substance, called the tear film, nourishes and protects your eye. If your eyes do not make the right amount of tears, or if you make tears of a poor quality, you may have dry eye. This condition causes surface irritation, redness and episodes of blurry vision. Certain conditions, such as low vitamin A levels, may increase your risk for dry eye problems.

Vitamin A

To prevent a vitamin A deficiency, the average adult requires an intake between 2,333 international units, or IU, and 3,000 IU. A number of foods contain vitamin A, and these include carrots, providing 1,793 IU for a half cup, and a baked sweet potato, which offers 3,203 IU for a half cup. Other food sources include eggs, milk, cantaloupe, spinach and broccoli. Fortified cereals also provide a significant source of vitamin A. If you have a deficiency or have a risk for developing low levels, your doctor may recommend a daily supplement to ensure that you have the appropriate intake.

Other Effects

In addition to dry eye problems, a vitamin A deficiency may result in other conditions. A severe or long-term deficiency may result in vision changes, including blindness, particularly in children. A deficiency in this nutrient may also result in respiratory conditions and the inability to fight infections.

Treatment

Mild dry eye may respond to artificial tears, a non-medicated eye drop that will lubricate your eye’s surface. Some people need to use the drops frequently throughout the day for relief. However, if artificial tears do not reduce your symptoms, your doctor may recommend a medicated eye drop designed to help increase the amount of tears your eyes produce. Another treatment option involves plugging the small tear duct to encourage your tears to stay on the surface of your eye rather than draining.

Considerations

Deficiencies of vitamin A do not typically occur in the United States since many foods contain vitamin A, and your body stores some of the nutrient for a period of time. These factors help reduce the risk for deficiencies. If you have a health condition that prevents your body from absorbing the nutrient, your doctor will most likely have you begin a supplement to prevent a deficiency. If you have continued problems with dry eye, talk with your doctor. Left untreated, dry eye could damage your cornea, the front, outer surface of your eye, and this could lead to vision problems.

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