Excess Vitamin A Can Lead To Blindness
While it is common knowledge that the deficiency of a vitamin can result in health problems, not everyone knows that the excess of a vitamin can also cause trouble.
The accumulation of excess Vitamin A in the body can cause Stargardt disease, a condition characterised by progressive macular degeneration that culminates in blindness. This disease affects about 1 in 10,000 people. It is distinct from the macular degeneration observed in elderly persons.
The disease is caused by an inherited disorder in which Vitamin A accumulates in the eye and turns toxic. Dr Parag Sharma, a senior ophthalmologist, explains, “The vitamin builds up in one part of the eye and becomes toxic. There is progressive damage that can lead to partial or complete blindness. For this reason, eye check-ups are recommended for children.”
Symptoms of the disease begin to set in from a young age. Dr Rahul Mathur, a senior eye surgeon, says, “The condition starts causing vision loss from childhood. In some cases, the symptoms may be exhibited during adolescence. It results in macular dystrophy and degeneration of the eye muscles.”
Vitamin A is otherwise considered to be beneficial for the eyes, but in persons with this condition, it has the opposite effect. Early detection is the only way to save a patient’s sight. However, the symptoms are often misunderstood by parents. They think that their child’s vision is deteriorating because of excessive use of mobile phones, computers, or because of watching too much television.
Tell-tale signs of Stargardt disease include the loss of central vision in both eyes and the formation of hazy spots in one’s field of vision, increased sensitivity to bright lights and colour blindness.
Children and adolescents diagnosed with the disease are asked to wear dark glasses when they step out in bright light. They also asked to cut down on their intake of Vitamin A and to include more fish, green leafy vegetables and nuts in their diet.