XEROPHTHALMIA; THE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Xerophthalmia is a medical condition in which the eye becomes abnormally dry and it is associated with vitamin A deficiency. This can develop into night blindness and can even cause more serious damage to the cornea.

Vitamin A plays a crucial role in immune function, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication, it is key for vision as an essential component of rhodopsin, a protein that absorbs light in the retinal receptors, and because it supports the normal differentiation and functioning of the conjunctival membranes and cornea. Vitamin A also supports cell growth and differentiation, playing a crucial role in the normal formation and maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.

CAUSES OF XEROPHTHALMIA

Xerophthalmia is caused by the lack or deficiency of Vitamin A.

 SYMPTOMS OF XEROPHTHALMIA

The symptoms of xerophthalmia include the following

  1. Night blindness(inability to see in dim light)
  2. Lesions form on the cornea
  3. Corneal ulcers
  4. Bitot’s spot (these are whitish spots on the palpebral conjunctiva, usually on the interpalpebral area)

WHO IS AT RISK OF XEROPHTHALMIA?

Children are most at risk of xerophthalmia, also lack of an adequate diet, poverty and inability to absorb vitamin A can make an individual to be at risk.

Inability to absorb vitamin A may result from:

  1. Liver disease
  2. Cystic fibrosis
  3. Alcoholism
  4. Diseases (such as celiac disease that limit the absorption of nutrient
  5. Chronic diarrhea

DIAGNOSIS

A physical examination is done by the doctor through diet and symptoms incase of night blindness the doctor may start you on vitamin A therapy before conducting any blood test.  

TREATMENT

Vitamin A supplements can be used for an immediate treatment for xerophthalmia, and this can be taken by mouth or through injection. The dose intake of vitamin A varies according to age and general health condition or status of an individual.

Foods such as milk, grains, sugar, oil and fat can also be fortified with vitamin A

National institute of health recommended daily intake of vitamins based on age and gender is as follows:

AgeMaleFemale
0–6 months400 mcg400 mcg
7–12 months500 mcg500 mcg
1–3 years300 mcg300 mcg
4–8 years400 mcg400 mcg
9–13 years600 mcg600 mcg
14 years and older900 mcg700 mcg

These recommendations above are for people who are healthy and well-nourished. The doctor may utter the recommendation based on the need and medical condition of individuals.

REFERENCES
Akhtar, S., Ahmed, A., Randhawa, M. A., Atukorala, S., Arlappa, N., Ismail, T., & Ali, Z. (2013, December). Prevalence of vitamin A deficiency in South Asia: Causes, outcomes, and possible remedies. Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition, 31(4), 413-423
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905635/

Eye health statistics. (n.d.)
aao.org/newsroom/eye-health-statistics

Lai, K. L., Ng, J. Y., & Srinivasan, S. (2014, February). Xerophthalmia and keratomalacia secondary to diet-induced vitamin A deficiency in Scottish adults [Abstract]. Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology, 49(1), 109-112
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24513368

McLaughlin, S., Welch, J., MacDonald, E., Mantry, S., & Ramaesh, K. (2014, May). Xerophthalmia – a potential epidemic on our doorstep? [Abstract]. Eye, 28, 621-623 (May 2014)
nature.com/eye/journal/v28/n5/full/eye201417a.html

Neidecker-Gonzales, O., Nestel, P., & Bouis, H. (2007, September). Estimating the global costs of vitamin A capsule supplementation: A review of the literature [Abstract]. Food Nutrition Bulletin, 28(3), 307-316
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17974364

Office of Dietary Supplements. (2016, August 31). Vitamin A: Fact sheet for professionals [Fact sheet]
ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/

Roncone, D. P. (2006). Xerophthalmia secondary to alcohol-induced malnutrition. Optometry, 77, 124-133

Sherwin, J. C., Reacher, M. H., Dean, W. H., & Ngondi, J. (2012, April). Epidemiology of vitamin A deficiency and xerophthalmia in at-risk populations [Abstract]. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 106(4), 205-214
sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0035920312000053

Solans, R., Bosch, J.-A., Galofre, P., Porta, F., Rosello, J., Selva-O’Callaghan, A., & Vilardell, M. (2001, May 1). Salivary and lacrimal gland dysfunction (sicca syndrome) after radioiodine therapy. Journal of Nuclear Medicine, 42(5), 738-743
jnm.snmjournals.org/content/42/5/738.full.pdf+html

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