Recognizing vitamin A deficiency: special considerations in low-prevalence areas

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2022 Apr 1;34(2):241-247. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0000000000001110.


Purpose of review: Although vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is rare in well resourced countries, there is a growing trend of VAD in at-risk pediatric populations. Early diagnosis is critically important to prevent its associated morbidity and mortality. This review highlights key lessons for evaluation, diagnosis, and management of children with xerophthalmia in the United States. It synthesizes the latest findings from the literature on the pathophysiology, epidemiology, risk factors, evaluation, and management of VAD in low-prevalence areas.

Recent findings: Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining the functional integrity of the eye, immune system, skin, and mucous membranes. Despite the scarcity of VAD in developed countries, there are increasing reports of VAD in at-risk children, including those with autism spectrum disorder and gastrointestinal conditions. There is a broad range of manifestations of VAD, posing a diagnostic challenge. Familiarity with the variable presentations of VAD and having a high index of suspicion in at-risk populations can aid in its early diagnosis. Systemic vitamin A supplementation and a multidisciplinary approach are important components of the management of VAD.

Summary: Even in well resourced countries, VAD should remain on the differential in patients with risk factors who present with relevant signs and symptoms. Early diagnosis and appropriate involvement of a multidisciplinary care team can help prevent morbidity and mortality associated with VAD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Vitamin A / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin A Deficiency* / complications
  • Vitamin A Deficiency* / diagnosis
  • Vitamin A Deficiency* / epidemiology
  • Xerophthalmia* / diagnosis
  • Xerophthalmia* / epidemiology
  • Xerophthalmia* / etiology


  • Vitamin A