Vision loss: Two vitamin deficiencies linked to a risk of potentially permanent blindness

Medical breakthrough could cure common forms of blindness

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There are several essential vitamins, and each carries out a specific role in the body. Certain functions, like eyesight, need several nutrients to work properly. A lack of vitamin A and vitamin B12 has been known to lead to vision loss if left untreated.

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for neurological function and the maintenance of the nervous system.

According to the Association of School and Colleges of Optometry: “Vitamin B12 deficiency optic neuropathy is a rare complication of this deficiency that results in progressive, bilateral, painless vision loss that is often associated with reduced colour vision […].”

Although there is a possibility that the deficiency can manifest with visual symptoms, it is rare.

What’s more, optic neuropathy is a reversible, treatable cause of vision loss, and maybe a harbinger of other manifestations of the disease.

Any unusual vision disturbances to vision should therefore be investigated by a healthcare professional.

This can allow early treatment of the deficiency and prevent the onset of severe and irreversible nerve damage.

The best sources of vitamin B12 are eggs, milk, cheese, meat, fish, shellfish and poultry. Once the nutrient has been stored in the liver it can sustain the body’s needs for years, but occasionally the body cannot take up the nutrient.

In such cases, injections or supplements may be required.

It is important to consult a doctor before taking any new supplements, however, as vitamins pose risks at high doses.

Another deficiency linked to vision loss is a lack of vitamin A.

“Night blindness is one of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency,” explains the WHO.

“In its more severe forms, vitamin A deficiency contributes to blindness by making the cornea very dry, thus damaging the retina and cornea.

“An estimated 250,000 – 500,000 children who are vitamin A-deficient become blind every year, and half of them die within 12 months of losing their sight.”

The condition is also a known contributor to maternal mortality and other poor outcomes of pregnancy.

It can lower the body’s ability to fight infection, therefore decreasing the likelihood of survival from a serious illness.

The greatest dietary sources of vitamin A are liver, fish eggs, and dairy products. A lot of vitamin A in the diet comes from leafy greens, orange and yellow vegetables, and certain oils.

Fortunately, a deficiency in the vitamin is rare in the UK.

Anyone with a suspected deficiency is advised to consult a doctor before trying supplements, as vitamin A pills also carry health risks at high doses.

A warning on the Government’s website reads: “Vitamin A has toxic effects at high serum concentrations, particularly in pregnant women.

“Excessive supplementation in pregnant women can cause birth defects.”

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