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Eye (Lond). 2007 Mar;21(3):367-76. Epub 2005 Dec 9.

Functional observations in vitamin A deficiency: diagnosis and time course of recovery.

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Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, UK.



To describe the effects of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) on retinal function and the subsequent recovery following treatment in three patients with systemic conditions (two with Crohn disease; one secondary to IgE syndrome).


Electrophysiological testing (including pattern electroretinogram, PERG; electroretinogram, ERG; visual-evoked potential) established the diagnosis of VAD. Repeat testing was carried out in two patients to monitor the time course of recovery following intramuscular vitamin A injection. The third patient had repeat recordings following 13 months of oral supplementation.


All three patients initially displayed a characteristic absence of rod function associated with VAD. In addition, delayed and reduced amplitude cone ERGs, loss of short wavelength cone (S-cone) function and subnormal macular function were observed in two patients. Restoration of rod and generalised cone function was rapid in the two patients who received intramuscular injection, with normalisation of some electrophysiological responses after only 3 days. Normal S-cone amplitudes and cone latencies were reached within 12 days of vitamin A injection. Macular function returned to within normal limits by 12 days postinjection in one patient, but remained mildly subnormal in the second patient. Full recovery was present after 13 months oral supplementation in the third patient.


Novel observations regarding dark-adapted cone function, S-cone function, and PERG are presented. The differences between the effects of VAD on rod and cone function, and their rate of recovery, may reflect differences in the visual cycle between the two photoreceptor classes. The importance of rapidly and accurately diagnosing VAD, a treatable condition, is noted.

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