Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble vitamins required for health. It’s especially important for vision, skin and mucous membranes found surrounding all organs. Vitamin A provides free radical-fighting functions for immunity and for anti-aging. It’s also critical for your thyroid to function properly. Studies in the last decade prove that vitamin A is important for gene expression regulation. This means that different diseases will be turned on if your genes are not “set” properly.
The Vitamin A test detects a deficiency of the vitamin. In children, a vitamin A deficiency will make them more susceptible to infections of all types, and their symptoms will become more severe. Also, the chance they will die from infections increases, with a death rate of more than 50%.
The vitamin A (retinol) test does not test for the Vitamin A plant sources called beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A, meaning they are converted to vitamin A by metabolism.
Normal Ranges for Vitamin A in mcg/dL:
0-6 years: 11.3-64.7 mcg/dL
7-12 years: 12.8-81.2 mcg/dL
13-17 years: 14.4-97.7 mcg/dL
18 years and above: 32.5-78.0 mcg/dL
Critical Range: <20 mcg/dL indicates supplementation is needed. Levels <10 mcg/dL mean deficiency. Vitamin A levels>120.0 mcg/dL is suggestive of elevated levels and toxicity.
Low vitamin A levels in the body mean there is a deficiency. A deficiency can cause any of the following health issues:
- Inability of the eyes to create tears, called xerophthalmia
- Inability to see at night, called night blindness. This is obvious when driving or when walking through a dark movie theater.
- Dry, scaly skin
- Impaired mucous membranes to keep out infections
- Growth retardation and infections in children
Some specific causes of low vitamin A might be:
- Lack of sufficient vitamin A foods in the diet
- Recent or previous GI surgery
- Liver or gall bladder disorders
- Digestive disorders, especially with impaired fat digestion (Vitamin A needs fat for absorption.)
- Low fat diet
- Cystic fibrosis
High levels of vitamin A on the vitamin A test indicate there is a toxicity or overload of the vitamin. The condition is especially important to diagnose before and during pregnancy because severe birth defects may occur.
Symptoms of high vitamin A levels include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, bone pain, poor appetite, sensitivity to the sun, hair loss, and confusion.
Some specific causes of high vitamin A might include:
- Overconsumption of liver, especially from hunted animals such as big game (bear, elk, caribou)
- Long-term use of acne treatments that contain the vitamin A compound isotretinoin
- Overzealous supplementation of vitamin A
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