In part three of my look at vitamin A, I focus in on its impact on our vision. From there, I include a problem that often occurs nearby one’s eyes — namely, acne. In both cases, there is excellent evidence that vitamin A can truly make a difference.
Vitamin A and Eyesight
The most notable role for vitamin A is related to vision. There is vitamin A inside the retina. As a result, vitamin A may be able to prevent or treat diseases of the eye. Let’s take “retinitis pigmentosa” as an example. This is a group of genetic diseases that lead to progressive loss of the photoreceptor cells in the eye known as “rods” and “cones.”.
Patients first complain about losing their ability to adapt to dark environments, which is basically night blindness. Later this extends to loss of peripheral and central vision. The best clinical trial that has demonstrated the efficacy of vitamin A in this condition came from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston.
(Here is another story we did on this link between vitamin A and seeing: This Vitamin Could Cure Night Blindness.)
In the study, 600 adults were assigned to four groups:
15,000 international units (IU)/day of vitamin A; 15,000 IU/day plus 400 IU/day of vitamin E; trace amounts of both vitamins; or 4,000 IU a day of vitamin E. The results were conclusive. They showed that those taking vitamin A were 32% less likely to have declining vision. Those taking only vitamin E were 42% more likely to show a decline (if you can believe it).
One use of vitamin A that has been explored is helping older adults (whose vision may be fading) adapt visually to the dark.
Vitamin A and Acne
In 1982, the Food and Drug Administration approved vitamin A (isotretinoin) to treat acne. These medications include topical tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene, and oral isotretinoin.
One good study followed 300 patients with moderate-to-severe acne treated with either adapalene gel (0.1%) or the tretinoin gel (0.025%). The first, applied once a day, was significantly more effective in reducing acne lesions.
(Also, you may want to check out our story on battling adult acne: How to Battle Adult Acne.)