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Hypervitaminosis A
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Hypervitaminosis A

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Vitamin A toxicity

Hypervitaminosis A is having too much vitamin A in the body.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • Causes

    There are two types of hypervitaminosis A:

    • Acute -- when the vitamin A level in the body suddenly increases over a short period of time
    • Chronic -- when too much vitamin A is present in the body over a longer period of time
  • Symptoms

    • Abnormal softening of the skull bone (craniotabes -- in infants and children)
    • Blurred vision
    • Bone pain or swelling
    • Bulging fontanelle (the soft spot in an infant's skull)
    • Changes in consciousness
    • Decreased appetite
    • Dizziness
    • Double vision (in young children)
    • Drowsiness
    • Hair changes, such as hair loss and oily hair
    • Headache
    • Increased pressure in the skull
    • Irritability
    • Liver damage
    • Nausea
    • Poor weight gain (in infants and children)
    • Skin changes, such as cracking at corners of the mouth, higher sensitivity to sunlight, oily skin, peeling, itching, and yellow color to the skin
    • Vision changes
    • Vomiting
  • Exams and Tests

    • Bone x-rays
    • Blood calcium test
    • Cholesterol test
    • Liver function test
    • Blood test to check vitamin A levels
  • Treatment

    Treatment involves simply stopping supplements (or rarely, foods) that contain vitamin A.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)

    Most people fully recover.

  • Possible Complications

    • Excessively high calcium levels
    • Failure to thrive in infants
    • Kidney damage due to high calcium
    • Liver damage

    Taking too much vitamin A during pregnancy may cause abnormal development in the growing baby. Talk to your health care provider about eating a proper diet while you are pregnant.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if you think that you or your child may have taken too much vitamin A, or you have symptoms of excess vitamin A.

  • Prevention

    To avoid hypervitaminosis A, avoid taking more than the recommended daily allowance of this vitamin. Recent emphasis on vitamin A and beta carotene as anticancer vitamins may contribute to chronic hypervitaminosis A, if people take more than is recommended.

Related Information

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References

Mason JB. Vitamins, trace minerals, and other micronutrients. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 225.

Zile MH. Vitamin A deficiencies and excess. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW III, Schor NF, Behrman RE, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 45.

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Review Date: 5/10/2014  

Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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