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Vitamin A and Management of Night Blindness (Nyctalopia)

Night blindness refers to the inability to see clearly at night, in or in an environment with poor light conditions. Although not a disease on its own, night blindness usually is a sign or a symptom of an underlying problem that involves the retina. For many people, especially older people, nighttime beauty is obscured by night blindness. Not only can these people not appreciate the beauty of the night, but they cannot easily do their daily activities like reading, knitting, driving, or even walking at night. 

 Causes Of Night Blindness

 Night blindness has many causes, including conditions like Myopia, Glaucoma medications that constrict the pupil, Cataracts, Retinitis pigmentosa and Vitamin A deficiency. In most cases, night blindness occurs because of dietary deficiencies. This type of night blindness can easily be avoided with a few tricks and tips and a little dietary planning.

  1. Cataracts: The older we get, our natural eye lenses become unclear and cloudy. The clouding blocks and distorts light entering the eyes. Common signs of cataracts are blurriness and night blindness. 
  2. Diabetes:  Diabetes is a known cause of reduced night vision. Over time, high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels that supply oxygen and remove waste from the retina. This causes leakage and may damage the retina, leading to what we know as retinopathy. Two early signs of retinopathy from diabetes are poor night vision and taking a long time to see normally after coming indoors from the bright light outside.
  3. Dry Eyes: Dry eye syndrome reduces the quality and quantity of tear film. This can affect the condition of the cornea, thus affecting the quality of vision, especially night vision.
  4. Uncorrected shortsightedness. Another general cause is uncorrected shortsightedness, commonly known as myopia. Even with vision correction, shortsighted people may find their condition worsens when their pupils dilate at night.
  5. Vitamin A Deficiency: This is the most common cause of night blindness. Vitamin A is a crucial ingredient in keeping the retina healthy. The lack of it causes the retina not to function properly and results in reduced night vision.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays a key role in many functions of the body. It is essential for healthy vision, metabolism and cell development. It is also important in keeping the immune and reproductive systems healthy. 

The body can not manufacture vitamin A on its own, and it is, therefore, supplied to the body through the food we eat.

Vitamin A is vital for vision. To function properly, the eyes must manufacture certain pigments in the retina. A lack of vitamin A hinders the eye’s ability to make these pigments, which can lead to night blindness. The eyes also need vitamin A to produce moisture to keep the corneas properly lubricated. If your corneas get too dry, they can become damaged, leading to blindness.

Vitamin A also keeps the skin and the lining of the lungs, intestines, and urinary tract in excellent shape,  it helps boost the immune system and protects the body against infections.

 Forms Of Vitamin A

There are two forms of vitamin A.

  • Preformed vitamin A

Preformed vitamin A is known as retinol. It is found naturally in animal products such as beef, poultry, fish, liver, and eggs. They has also fortified some cereals and dairy products with vitamin A.

  • Provitamin A ( carotenoids)

Carotenoids are from plant sources and form the pigments in most vegetables and fruits, giving them their yellow, orange and red colours. After consuming these fruits and vegetables, the body slowly converts the carotenoids into vitamin A. The most common type of carotenoid is beta carotene.

SOURCES OF VITAMIN A

Vitamin A can be found naturally in:

  • Green vegetables, such as leafy greens and broccoli.
  • Orange and yellow vegetables, such as carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and squash.
  • Orange and yellow fruits include oranges, mangos, cantaloupe, and papayas. You can get these fruits as frizzle juice or smoothies. Check here to order.

Dairy products.

  • Liver, beef, and chicken.
  • Certain types of fish, such as salmon.
  • Eggs.
  • Cereals, rice, potatoes, wheat and soybeans fortified with vitamin A. You can also take a vitamin A supplement.

Causes Of Vitamin A Deficiency

 Vitamin A deficiency can occur because of liver disorders. The liver can store most of the body’s vitamin A, and liver disorders can interfere with this storage. Diseases and conditions that Impair the intestine’s ability to absorb fat can also cause vitamin A deficiency. These conditions can reduce the body’s ability to absorb vitamins such as vitamin A.  Some of these conditions include:

  • Chronic diarrhoea.
  • Celiac disease.
  • Cystic fibrosis.
  • Certain pancreatic disorders.
  • Bile duct blockage.
  • Zinc or iron deficiency.
  • Small bowel bypass or bariatric surgery.
  • Alcohol intoxication
  • Intestine or pancreas surgery.

Management Of Night Blindness

 Managing night blindness involves treating the underlying conditions that lead to it. These include:

VITAMIN A SUPPLEMENTS

Vitamin A deficiency is a common cause of night blindness and can be treated with vitamin A supplements. As the vitamin A level regulates,  night vision eventually returns to normal. Consuming foods rich in vitamin A can help delay the onset of cataracts and may also act to protect retinal health.

Foods rich in vitamin A are usually fruits, including carrots, mangoes, pawpaw, oranges, potatoes, milk, eggs, and so forth Consuming fruits depends highly on availability. Other forms of fruit consumption to supplement Vitamin A include making fruit salads and fruit smoothies; check here for various products, etc.

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