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Vitamin A deficiency in Adult
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Vitamin A deficiency in Adult

Contributors: Rajini Murthy MD, Chris G. Adigun MD, David Dasher MD, Susan Burgin MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in vision, immunity, and epithelial proliferation and keratinization.

Vitamin A deficiency is more common in developing countries, where widespread starvation and malnourishment persist. Although rare, it does occur in developed countries, typically as a result of an extremely calorie-restricted diet, as in eating disorders; malabsorption due to medical conditions such as Crohn disease, pancreatic insufficiency, or cirrhosis; or surgical interventions such as gastric bypass surgery or colectomy. Chronic giardiasis may also give rise to malabsorption and subsequent (or resultant) vitamin A deficiency.

Phrynoderma, which presents as hyperkeratotic follicular papules, primarily on the extensor surfaces of the extremities, is caused by vitamin A deficiency. It has also been associated with deficiencies in vitamins B complex (see B1, B2, B6, B7, B12), C, or E and essential fatty acid deficiency. The consensus in the literature is that general malnutrition is most closely associated with its development, rather than isolated vitamin A or other isolated vitamin deficiencies.

Other manifestations associated with vitamin A deficiency include blepharitis, night blindness, diarrhea, muscle weakness, and neuritis. Severe deficiency in vitamin A can lead to destructive eye problems, including xerosis conjunctiva, Bitot spots, corneal xerosis, and keratomalacia.


E50.9 – Vitamin A deficiency, unspecified

238629004 – Phrynoderma
72000004 – Vitamin A deficiency

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

Differential diagnosis of phrynoderma:
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Disseminate and recurrent Infundibulofolliculitis
  • Lichen spinulosus
  • Keratosis pilaris
  • Pityriasis rubra pilaris
  • Trichodysplasia spinulosa (formerly trichodysplasia of immunosuppression)
  • Pruritic and dyskeratotic dermatosis
  • Prurigo nodularis
  • Kyrle disease
  • Reactive perforating collagenosis

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Last Reviewed:08/30/2022
Last Updated:09/11/2022
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Vitamin A deficiency in Adult
A medical illustration showing key findings of Vitamin A deficiency (Cutaneous) : Dry skin, Extensor distribution, Follicular configuration, Widespread distribution
Clinical image of Vitamin A deficiency - imageId=1813257. Click to open in gallery.
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