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J Paediatr Child Health. 2016 Jul;52(7):699-703. doi: 10.1111/jpc.13243.

Vitamin A deficiency and xerophthalmia in children of a developed country.

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Save Sight Institute, Ophthalmology Department, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Royal Australian Air Force, 3 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Richmond, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Corneal Unit, Sydney Children's Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



We aim (i) to characterise the clinical features of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in a small cohort of Australian children; (ii) to determine the effects of VAD; and (iii) to quantify the prevalence of ophthalmic review in this group.


Data collected from the charts incorporated patient demographics, laboratory results, past medical history, ophthalmic symptoms and dietary history. Outcome measures were (i) occurrence of VAD in our study population; (ii) presence of associated systemic effects and ocular manifestations in those diagnosed with VAD; and (iii) determination of whether children with VAD had an ophthalmology review.


Fifty-two of the 146 children had VAD; their average age was 8.4 years (range 11 days to 18 years old). In this Australian cohort, the most common pre-existing medical conditions in those children whose vitamin A status was investigated were cystic fibrosis, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, micronutrient deficiency and short gut syndrome. The most common medical conditions affecting children with measured VAD in this cohort include autism, coeliac disease and cystic fibrosis. A significant association was found between VAD and anaemia and serum iron levels. Of the 146 children, 28 had ophthalmology review, of whom 13 had VAD. The most common reason for ophthalmology review was retinopathy of prematurity; there was only one referral for review for xerophthalmia. There was one case of xerophthalmia referred due to microbial keratitis.


Vitamin A deficiency and xerophthalmia do exist in children of developed country. The potential for xerophthalmia should be considered, and there should be a consideration of an ophthalmology review.


paediatric; vitamin A deficiency; xerophthalmia

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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