Vitamin A is a vitamin. It can be found in many fruits, vegetables, eggs, whole milk, butter, fortified margarine, meat, and oily saltwater fish. It can also be made in a laboratory.
Vitamin A is used for treating vitamin A deficiency. It is also used to reduce complications of diseases such as malaria, HIV, measles, and diarrhea in children with vitamin A deficiency.
Women use vitamin A for heavy menstrual periods, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), vaginal infections, yeast infections, “lumpy breasts” (fibrocystic breast disease), and to prevent breast cancer. Some women with HIV use vitamin A to decrease the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breast-feeding.
Men use vitamin A to raise their sperm count.
Some people use vitamin A for improving vision and treating eye disorders including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and cataracts.
Vitamin A is also used for skin conditions including acne, eczema, psoriasis, cold sores, wounds, burns, sunburn, keratosis follicularis (Darier’s disease), ichthyosis (noninflammatory skin scaling), lichen planus pigmentosus, and pityriasis rubra pilaris.
It is also used for gastrointestinal ulcers, Crohn’s disease, gum disease, diabetes, Hurler syndrome (mucopolysaccharidosis), sinus infections, hayfever, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Vitamin A is also used for shigellosis, diseases of the nervous system, nose infections, loss of sense of smell, asthma, persistent headaches, kidney stones, overactive thyroid, iron-poor blood (anemia), deafness, ringing in the ears, and precancerous mouth sores (leukoplakia).
Other uses include preventing and treating cancer, protecting the heart and cardiovascular system, slowing the aging process, and boosting the immune system.
Vitamin A is applied to the skin to improve wound healing, reduce wrinkles, and to protect the skin against UV radiation.
Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The Effectiveness ratings for Vitamin A are as follows:
Possibly Effective for...
Possibly Ineffective for...
Likely Ineffective for...
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
More evidence is needed to rate vitamin A for these uses.
Vitamin A is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth or given as a shot into the muscle in amounts less than 10,000 units daily.
Vitamin A is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in high doses. Some scientific research suggests that higher doses might increase the risk of osteoporosis and hip fracture, particularly in older people. Adults who eat low-fat dairy products, which are fortified with vitamin A, and a lot of fruits and vegetables usually do not need vitamin A supplements or multivitamins that contain vitamin A.
Long-term use of large amounts of vitamin A might cause serious side effects including fatigue, irritability, mental changes, anorexia, stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, mild fever, excessive sweating, and many other side effects. In women who have passed menopause, taking too much vitamin A can increase the risk of osteoporosis and hip fracture.
There is growing concern that taking high doses of antioxidant supplements such as vitamin A might do more harm than good. Some research shows that taking high doses of vitamin A supplements might increase the chance of death from all causes and possibly other serious side effects.
Vitamin A is LIKELY SAFE for children when taken in the recommended amounts. The maximum amounts of vitamin A that are safe for children are based on age:
Vitamin A is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for children when taken by mouth in high doses. When amounts greater than those recommended are taken, side effects can include irritability, sleepiness, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of consciousness, headache, vision problems, peeling skin, increased risk of pneumonia and diarrhea, and other problems.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Vitamin A is LIKELY SAFE for pregnant or breast-feeding women when taken in recommended amounts of less than 10,000 units per day. Larger amounts are POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Vitamin A can cause birth defects. It is especially important for pregnant women to monitor their intake of vitamin A from all sources during the first three months of pregnancy. Forms of vitamin A are found in several foods including animal products, primarily liver, some fortified breakfast cereals, and dietary supplements.
Excessive use of alcohol: Drinking alcohol may increase vitamin A’s potentially harmful effects on the liver.
Disorders in which the body does not absorb fat properly: People with conditions that affect fat absorption, such as celiac disease, short gut syndrome, jaundice, cystic fibrosis, pancreatic disease, and cirrhosis of the liver, are not able to absorb vitamin A properly. To improve vitamin A absorption, these people should use vitamin A preparations that are water-soluble.
A type of high cholesterol called "Type V hyperlipoproteinemia": This condition might increase the chance of vitamin A poisoning. Do not take vitamin A if you have this condition.
Intestinal infections: Intestinal infections such as hookworm can reduce how much vitamin A the body absorbs.
Liver disease: Too much vitamin A might make liver disease worse. Do not take vitamin A if you have liver disease.
Malnutrition: In people with severe protein malnutrition, taking vitamin A might result in having too much vitamin A in the body.
Zinc deficiency: Zinc deficiency might cause symptoms of vitamin A deficiency to occur. Taking a combination of vitamin A and zinc supplements might be necessary to improve this condition.
Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.
Vitamin A can interact with some antibiotics. Taking very large amounts of vitamin A along with some antibiotics can increase the chance of a serious side effect called intracranial hypertension. However, taking normal doses of vitamin A along with tetracyclines does not seem to cause this problem. Do not take large amounts of vitamin A if you are taking antibiotics.
Some of these antibiotics include demeclocycline (Declomycin), minocycline (Minocin), and tetracycline (Achromycin).
Interaction Rating = Major Do not take this combination.
Some medications for skin conditions have vitamin A effects. Taking vitamin A pills and these medications for skin conditions could cause too much vitamin A effects and side effects.
Taking large amounts of vitamin A might harm the liver. Taking large amounts of vitamin A along with medications that might also harm the liver can increase the risk of liver damage. Do not take large amounts of vitamin A if you are taking a medication that can harm the liver.
Some medications that can harm the liver include acetaminophen (Tylenol and others), amiodarone (Cordarone), carbamazepine (Tegretol), isoniazid (INH), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), methyldopa (Aldomet), fluconazole (Diflucan), itraconazole (Sporanox), erythromycin (Erythrocin, Ilosone, others), phenytoin (Dilantin), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), simvastatin (Zocor), and many others.
Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. Large amounts of vitamin A can also slow blood clotting. Taking vitamin A along with warfarin (Coumadin) can increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.
Red blood cells need iron to make hemoglobin, the chemical that carries oxygen through the body. Taking vitamin A seems to improve hemoglobin levels in people who have low levels of iron and vitamin A.
Eating fatty foods helps the body absorb vitamin A.
Adequate Intake (AI) levels of vitamin A for infants have been established: birth to 6 months, 400 mcg/day (1300 units); 7 to 12 months, 500 mcg/day (1700 units).
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) levels for children and adults have been established: children 1 to 3 years, 300 mcg/day (1000 units); 4 to 8 years, 400 mcg/day (1300 units); 9 to 13 years, 600 mcg/day (2000 units); men 14 years and older, 900 mcg/day (3000 units); women 14 years and older, 700 mcg/day (2300 units); pregnancy 14 to 18 years, 750 mcg/day (2500 units); 19 years and older, 770 mcg/day (2600 units); lactation 14 to 18 years, 1200 mcg/day (4000 units); 19 years and older, 1300 mcg/day (4300 units). Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for vitamin A have also been established. The UL is the highest level of intake that is likely to pose no risk of harmful effects. The ULs for vitamin A are for preformed vitamin A (retinol) and do not include provitamin A carotenoids: infants and children from birth to 3 years, 600 mcg/day (2000 units); children 4 to 8 years, 900 mcg/day (3000 units); 9 to 13 years, 1700 mcg/day (6000 units); 14 to 18 years (including pregnancy and lactation), 2800 mcg/day (9000 units); adults age 19 and older (including pregnancy and lactation), 3000 mcg/day (10,000 units).
Vitamin A dosage is most commonly expressed in units, but dosage in micrograms is sometimes used.
Eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day provides about 50% to 65% of the adult RDA for vitamin A.
Natural Medicines disclaims any responsibility related to medical consequences of using any medical product. Effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this monograph is accurate at the time it was published. Consumers and medical professionals who consult this monograph are cautioned that any medical or product related decision is the sole responsibility of the consumer and/or the health care professional. A legal License Agreement sets limitations on downloading, storing, or printing content from this Database. Except for any possible exceptions written into your License Agreement, no reproduction of this monograph or any content from this Database is permitted without written permission from the publisher. Unlawful to download, store, or distribute content from this site.
For the latest comprehensive data on this and every other natural medicine, health professionals should consult the Professional Version of the Natural Medicines. It is fully referenced and updated daily.
© Copyright 1995-2019. Therapeutic Research Faculty, publishers of Natural Medicines, Prescriber's Letter, and Pharmacist's Letter. All rights reserved.
Discover the different ways you can help
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)
Give hope to others in your situation