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Vitamin A & Corticosteroids in Wound Healing

By Adam Cloe

Wound healing is a complex process that involves the immune system. Medications that inhibit the immune system, such as corticosteroids, can make it harder for wounds to heal. On the other hand, treatment with substances related to vitamin A, also known as retinoids, can help you heal faster and may reduce some of the deleterious effects of corticosteroids. Talk to your doctor first.

What Is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A is a term used for a variety of different substances, known as retinoids, that have myriad of roles in the body. Vitamin A helps promote vision and also maintains the health of your skin and other linings in your body, including the tissue that covers your respiratory, digestive and urinary tract. Vitamin A is also essential for the function of your immune system and can help promote the development of white blood cells.

What Are Corticosteroids?

Corticosteroids are synthetic compounds that are designed to mimic the effects of a group of hormones in the body called glucocorticoids, including cortisol. These drugs are prescribed to either boost glucocorticoid levels and they are also prescribed to inhibit inflammation. Corticosteroids weaken your immune system and while this can be helpful for minimizing swelling, it can also impair healing. This can slow the healing of wounds, including wounds from surgery.

Vitamin A and Corticosteroids

Retinoids are sometimes given to patients to improve the healing of wounds. A 2006 review in "Dermatologic Surgery" noted that many dermatologists give patients retinoids before surgery to speed recovery. Vitamin A may also help speed wound healing if you are treated with corticosteroids. A study published in a 2000 issue of "Archives of Surgery" found that mice treated with corticosteroids had slowed wound healing and that some of the changes were reversible when the mice were treated with retinoids.


Although vitamin A may help you speed the healing of wounds, particularly if you are taking corticosteroids, you should still talk to your doctor before taking vitamin A supplements. The effects of vitamin A in human wound healing is still being studied. In addition, too much vitamin A can be dangerous and cause osteoporosis, problems with the central nervous system, liver damage and an increased risk of birth defects.

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