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Xerophthalmia is an eye disease caused by vitamin A deficiency which is characterized by dry eyes. If left untreated, this disease can get worse over time, even leading to blindness

Vitamin A has a number of important functions for the eye, one of which is to provide nutrition to the eye, including the clear layer on the surface of the eye (cornea). Without vitamin A, the lubricating eyeball will also decrease so that the eyes become dry.


Causes of Xerophthalmia

Xerophthalmia is caused by a lack of vitamin A. This vitamin is not produced by the body, but can be obtained from food, both animal and plant foods.

Xerophthalmia is more prone to be experienced by children and pregnant women, because they both need more vitamin A. In addition, people who have impaired absorption of vitamin A are also at risk for xerophthalmia.

There are several other conditions that make it harder for a person's body to absorb vitamin A, namely:

  • Suffering from chronic diarrhea, giardiasis, cystic fibrosis, Celiac disease, and liver cirrhosis
  • Understanding thyroid nuclear therapy treatment for thyroid cancer
  • Being addicted to alcohol

Xerophthalmia Symptoms

Xerophthalmia symptoms are mild at first, but then will get worse if the need for vitamin A is not met.Lack of vitamin A can make the thin membrane that lines the eyelids and eyeball (conjunctiva) dry, thick, and wrinkled. This is what triggers the appearance of early symptoms of xerophthalmia.

This condition will be felt as a symptom of dry eyes by the sufferer. Symptoms that will be felt by sufferers of xerophthalmia due to dry eyes are:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Like something stuck in the eye
  • Stinging or burning in the eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Night blindness
  • Blurred vision
  • Eyes are more sensitive to light

When xerophthalmia gets worse, Bitot's spots will appear on the whites of the eyes. Bitot's spots are piles of conjunctival cells that die from lack of tears.

If left unchecked, the dryness of the eye will expand and affect the cornea. Dryness of the cornea can cause corneal ulcers. This is dangerous, because it can cause permanent blindness in the patient.

When to see a doctor

Xerophthalmia is a condition that will get worse over time if not treated. Therefore, immediately consult a doctor if you experience early symptoms of this condition, namely difficulty seeing clearly at night or when the surrounding light is dim.

Xerophthalmia Diagnosis

At the beginning of the examination, the doctor will ask for complaints that are disturbing and affect the patient's eyes. The doctor will also ask about the patient's daily eating habits and patterns. After that, the doctor will perform a physical examination, especially on the patient's eyes.

The doctor may recommend additional examinations, one of which is to detect diseases that can cause vitamin A deficiency. The doctor may also perform blood tests to check vitamin A or retinol levels.

Xerophthalmia Treatment

In the early stages of treatment, the doctor will provide vitamin A supplements, either taken by mouth or injected into the patient's body. Giving vitamin A is preferred to be given to patients who have been diagnosed with chickensightedness or night blindness (night blindness).

Vitamin A supplements aim to get rid of night blindness and help the eyes re-produce fluid to lubricate the eyes.

If xerophthalmia causes corneal damage, the doctor will give antibiotics to prevent further infection. The patient's eyes may also be closed to protect the eyes until the blisters are completely healed.

In addition to getting vitamin A supplements, sufferers need to improve their nutrition by eating foods rich in vitamin A, such as:

  • Animal foods, such as beef liver, chicken, salmon, tuna, mackerel, milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs.
  • Plant foods that include spinach, lettuce, and carrots, as well as fruits, such as oranges, papaya, and watermelon.

Xerophthalmia Complications

Xerophthalmia needs to be treated properly, because it risks causing more severe eye damage. If xerophthalmia continues and is not treated properly, nerve and eye tissue damage will occur, causing permanent blindness.

Xerophthalmia Prevention

Xerophthalmia can be prevented by ensuring that the daily requirement of vitamin A is met, especially through the food consumed daily. If needed, people with impaired absorption of vitamin A, such as alcoholics, or people with cystic fibrosis and liver cirrhosis, can take vitamin A supplements as recommended by their doctor.

The daily intake of vitamin A needed depends on age and gender. Adult men need a daily intake of vitamin A as much as 3000 units, while adult women need as much as 2310 units of vitamin A per day. Meanwhile, the daily requirement of vitamin A in pregnant women is 2565 units.

The daily intake of vitamin A needed by children is around 2000 units for children under 13 years old, 1320 units for under 8 years old, and 1000 units for 1-3 years old.

Children are a group that is quite susceptible to xerophthalmia.Therefore, the need for vitamin A in children must be fulfilled. Apart from food, parents need to take their children to the posyandu during the months of free vitamin A giving, namely February and August, to get vitamin A supplements.

Please note that children who are exposed to measles are also at risk for xerophthalmia. Therefore, immediately take him to the doctor if he experiences symptoms of measles, such as rash on the skin and fever, so that measles can be quickly resolved and xerophthalmia can be prevented.

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