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Vitamin A
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Vitamin A Usage

Written by FoundHealth.

Therapeutic Uses

There is some evidence that vitamin A supplements reduce deaths from measles and other infectious illnesses among children in developing countries, 1 presumably because they correct a deficiency in the children's diets. This doesn't mean that vitamin A supplements above and beyond the basic nutritional requirement are a useful treatment for measles or any other childhood disease.

Vitamin A might improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes . Unfortunately, people with diabetes may also be especially vulnerable to liver damage from excessive amounts of vitamin A (see Safety Issues ). Therefore, if you have diabetes, you should take vitamin A only on the advice of a physician.

Vitamin A has shown some potential for preventing one type of skin cancer (squamous cell cancer). 2 However, in these studies, doses above the standard safe upper limits have been used. With proper monitoring, this may be safe, but we do not recommend trying it without physician supervision. High-dose vitamin A has been tried for a variety of other skin diseases, including acne , psoriasis , rosacea , seborrhea , and eczema , 3 4 5 as well as menorrhagia (heavy menstruation) 6 and retinitis pigmentosa (a chronic disease of the eyes). 7 However, the benefits seen have been modest at best, and again the recommended dosages of vitamin A are so high as to raise concerns about toxic risk.

Vitamin A might be beneficial for people with HIV; however, results of studies have been contradictory, and some evidence even suggests that vitamin A supplements might increase transmission of the disease from a pregnant mother to her newborn. 8 Topical vitamin A may be helpful for treatment of aging skin. One double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that a 0.4% vitamin A lotion applied three times a week significantly reduced the number of “fine” wrinkles in seniors. 9 Benefits were also seen in terms of some biochemical measures of skin health.

On the basis of very weak evidence, too weak to be relied upon at all, vitamin A has been proposed as a treatment for a wide variety of other conditions, including Down's syndrome, ear infections , eating disorders , glaucoma , gout , impaired night vision , kidney stones , lupus , multiple sclerosis , ulcerative colitis , and ulcers .

One study suggests that vitamin A is noteffective for Crohn's disease . 10


  1. Glasziou PP, Mackerras DE. Vitamin A supplementation in infectious diseases: a meta-analysis. BMJ. 306(6874):366-70.
  2. Moon TE, Levine N, Cartmel B, et al. Effect of retinol in preventing squamous cell skin cancer in moderate-risk subjects: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. Southwest Skin Cancer Prevention Study Group. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1997;6:949-956.
  3. STOESSER AV, NELSON LS. Synthetic vitamin A in treatment of eczema in children. Ann Allergy. 10(6):703-4.
  4. Kligman AM, Mills OH Jr, Leyden JJ, Gross PR, Allen HB, Rudolph RI. Oral vitamin A in acne vulgaris. Preliminary report. Int J Dermatol. 20(4):278-85.
  5. Marrakchi S, Kim I, Delaporte E, et al. Vitamin A and E blood levels in erythrodermic and pustular psoriasis associated with chronic alcoholism. Acta Derm Venereol. 1994;74:298-301.
  6. Lithgow DM, Politzer WM. Vitamin A in the treatment of menorrhagia. S Afr Med J. 51(7):191-3.
  7. Berson EL, Rosner B, Sandberg MA, et al. A randomized trial of vitamin A and vitamin E supplementation for retinitis pigmentosa. Arch Ophthalmol. 1993;111:761-72
  8. Mehta S, Fawzi W. Effects of vitamins, including vitamin A, on HIV/AIDS patients. Vitam Horm. 75():355-83.
  9. Kafi R, Kwak HS, Schumacher WE, Cho S, Hanft VN, Hamilton TA, King AL, Neal JD, Varani J, Fisher GJ, Voorhees JJ, Kang S. Improvement of naturally aged skin with vitamin A (retinol). Arch Dermatol. 143(5):606-12.
  10. Wright JP, Mee AS, Parfitt A, et al. Vitamin A therapy in patient's with Crohn's disease. Gastroenterology. 1985;88:512-514.


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