Eleven year old boy loses sight due to malnutrition

Unilateral nutrition leads to massive deficiency symptoms in children

Improper nutrition can have dramatic consequences for our health. This is particularly evident in the case of an eleven-year-old from Canada. The boy suffered from numerous food allergies and rashes, which is why his parents created a special diet plan. After eating this way for several months, the child could no longer see.

Parents want to help children with a special diet

The parents probably only wanted to do something good for their child: Since their son suffered from various food allergies and skin rashes, they put together a special diet for him. But the one-sided diet led to dramatic deficiency symptoms. The boy could see worse and worse until he was almost blind in the end, reports Dustin Jacobson from the University of Toronto and colleagues in the specialist magazine “JAMA Pediatrics Clinical Challenge”.

No green vegetables on the menu

The boy's menu consisted of only a few foods: potatoes, pork and lamb, cucumber, apples, and oatmeal flakes. These should keep food intolerances and allergies at bay and protect the child from unpleasant rashes. The boy did not get any other food, such as green vegetables, dairy products or eggs. However, the one-sided and extremely restricted diet was not without consequences, because the boy's eyesight deteriorated visibly within a few months.

Dry eyes and loss of vision

At first the eleven-year-old suffered from extremely dry eyes, then night blindness and sensitivity to light were added. Later on, he was unable to look properly during the day. When his parents took him to a children's hospital in Toronto, his eyesight was only enough to detect hand movements no more than 30 centimeters apart, the doctors report.

Dry spots on the conjunctiva

The doctors examined the young patient and found no external causes for the sudden loss of vision. There were no signs of violence or reddening of the eyes, and the eleven-year-old was not in any pain, the authors report. But then the doctors discovered dry spots on the conjunctiva of the eye, which is a typical sign of an A vitamin deficiency.

An undersupply of vitamin A is one of the main reasons why children lose their eyesight, especially in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 190 million children under the age of five suffer from vitamin A deficiency worldwide. In developed countries, the supply of the vitamin through the daily diet is usually good and a deficiency is the exception.

Vitamin A is essential for the visual process

In the Canadian boy, however, the strict diet had caused massive vitamin A deficiency, which was manifested by the visual problems after a short time. Because vitamin A, also known as “eye vitamin”, is essential for the visual process, as it is directly involved in light processing as part of the visual pigment in the sensory cells of the retina (rods and cones).

If the vitamin is missing, vision is impaired, which first manifests itself in the form of night blindness. This is because the visual pigments of the rods and cones absorb the vitamin at different speeds. The visual pigment in the sticks (rhodopsin), which enables vision in the dark, absorbs the vitamin only slowly. On the other hand, iodopsin, which absorbs vitamin A faster, is needed for vision during the day.

Child is considered blind even after treatment

In order to save the child's eyesight, the boy was given several high doses of vitamin A over two weeks. After six weeks, the child's eyes had recovered somewhat - but the authors fear that it will probably never be able to see properly again.

"The vision loss associated with vitamin A deficiency can be reversible, but in cases with established optic atrophy, as is the case with this patient, some degree of vision loss is likely to be permanent," the doctors write. Therefore, the eleven-year-old is still considered blind after the treatment.

Pay attention to foods rich in vitamin A.

The sad story of the child shows how important it is to pay attention to a varied, vitamin and mineral-rich diet. A lot of vitamin A is contained in animal foods such as liver, kidney or eggs. Butter and cheese are also good suppliers.

The vitamin is often found in plant food in the form of beta-carotene (provitamin A). The best sources for this include carrots, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.), red peppers, broccoli or apricots. Beta-carotene is more easily absorbed by the body if a little fat is consumed at the same time, for example a small, small amount of olive oil. (No)

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