• Article

Epidemiology of vitamin A deficiency and xerophthalmia in at-risk populations

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is an important public health problem worldwide that contributes significantly to the global burden of disease. Vitamin A deficiency disorders include xerophthalmia and increased risk of infectious diseases, both of which increase risk of mortality. Xerophthalmia is also a leading cause of preventable blindness. Areas with highly prevalent VAD often share common dietary and other environmental exposures, including poverty, infectious diseases, limited development and poor availability of vitamin A containing food. Globally, the prevalence of VAD has been declining, which may be due to widespread vitamin A supplementation in conjunction with measles immunisation in at-risk populations. Recent meta-analyses confirm that provision of vitamin A to children aged between 6 months and 5 years confers a significant mortality benefit. Further preventative measures for VAD comprise improving availability of vitamin A containing food, including foods biofortified with vitamin A. Ensuring vitamin A is available in any form in adequate quantities remains problematic, especially in areas affected by environmental catastrophes and conflict, and other areas where access to vitamin A containing foods and healthcare interventions is limited. Hence, it remains essential that maternal and child health workers remain vigilant for VAD in nutritionally vulnerable populations


Sherwin, JC., Reacher, MH., Dean, WH., & Ngondi, J. (2012). Epidemiology of vitamin A deficiency and xerophthalmia in at-risk populations. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 106(4), 205-214. DOI: 10.1016/j.trstmh.2012.01.004