Vitamin E deficiency is a condition when the body lacks vitamin E. Although rare, vitamin E deficiency can cause various health problems, ranging from impaired coordination of body movements to blindness.
Vitamin E is an important nutrient that the body needs to maintain the immune system and protect body cells from exposure to free radicals. This vitamin can be obtained naturally from foods, such as nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, green vegetables, and wheat.
Vitamin E deficiency generally occurs due to a lack of consuming foods that contain vitamin E. However, vitamin E deficiency can also occur due to other conditions that interfere with nutrient absorption (food malabsorption).
Causes and Risk Factors of Vitamin E Deficiency
As previously explained, vitamin E deficiency usually occurs due to a lack of intake of foods that contain vitamin E or impaired absorption of nutrients. There are several factors that can make a person more at risk of experiencing vitamin E deficiency, namely:
- Are on a low-fat diet, because vitamin E is a vitamin that requires fat to dissolve in the body
- Have a condition that causes food malabsorption , such as cholestasis , inflammation of the pancreas, or cystic fibrosis
- Babies born prematurely
Although rare, vitamin E deficiency can also be caused by a rare genetic disorder that causes the sufferer's body to not be able to utilize vitamin E from food. This condition is generally experienced by children aged 5-15 years.
Symptoms of Vitamin E Deficiency
Vitamin E deficiency rarely causes symptoms in adults, because adults tend to have large stores of vitamin E in adipose tissue. Conversely, vitamin E deficiency can have a greater impact if it occurs in infants or children.
Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency generally appear gradually as the condition worsens. These symptoms can be:
- Muscle weakness or pain
- Difficulty walking and maintaining balance
- Difficulty regulating body movements, including speaking and swallowing
- Difficulty in moving the eyeballs, especially upwards
- Visual disturbances, such as narrowing of the eye's field of vision or night blindness
- Easily tired
- Easily hurt
In premature babies, vitamin E deficiency can also increase the risk of hemolytic anemia , which is a condition of lack of blood caused by the rupture of red blood cells. Not only that, premature babies can also experience brain bleeding and abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye ( retinopathy of prematurity ).
When to see a doctor
Check with your doctor if you experience the symptoms of vitamin E deficiency mentioned above, especially if you have a condition that can affect the absorption of vitamin E in the body.
In addition, if you have a baby who was born prematurely, consult a doctor immediately if he shows signs of weakness of movement.
Diagnosis of Vitamin E Deficiency
The doctor will begin the diagnosis by conducting questions and answers regarding the complaints and symptoms experienced, the patient's and family's medical history, and the patient's lifestyle. The doctor will also carry out an overall physical examination, especially on the function of the nerves, muscles and eyes.
For a more accurate diagnosis, the doctor will perform a blood test to measure the level of vitamin E in the blood. Blood tests may also be done to detect hemolytic anemia that can result from vitamin E deficiency.
Adults are considered to have vitamin E deficiency if their vitamin E levels are less than 5 mcg/mL. While in children, vitamin E levels are usually more difficult to detect.
In addition to the above examinations, doctors can also carry out additional examinations to detect other conditions that may be the cause of vitamin E deficiency.
Treatment of Vitamin E Deficiency
Generally, the treatment of vitamin E deficiency is by administering vitamin E supplements . Vitamin E supplements can be given in the form of capsules, solutions, or multivitamin tablets.
The dose given generally ranges from 15–25 mg/kg body weight (BB), once a day. However, in certain cases, doctors can give higher doses.
In patients with biliary disorders, vitamin E supplements are given by infusion. This is because the patient's body is unable to absorb the vitamin E supplements taken orally.
Complications of Vitamin E Deficiency
If left untreated, vitamin E deficiency can get worse and cause complications in the form of:
- Recurrent infection
- Heart rhythm disturbances
Prevention of Vitamin E Deficiency
The best way to prevent vitamin E deficiency is to make sure your body gets enough daily intake of vitamin E. The following are the levels of vitamin E needed by the body based on age:
- Infants 0–6 months: 4 mg/day
- Infants 7–12 months: 5 mg/day
- Children 1–3 years: 6 mg/day
- Children 4–8 years: 7 mg/day
- Children 9–13 years: 11 mg/day
- Teenagers and adults: 15 mg/day
- Pregnant women: 15 mg/day
- Breastfeeding mothers: 19 mg/day
For babies aged 0-6 months who are not allowed to eat solid food, the need for vitamin E can be fulfilled from breast milk or formula. However, after weaning, the baby's vitamin E needs need to be met from food. Foods that can be a source of vitamin E include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Green vegetable
- Vegetable oil
Apart from food, vitamin E intake can also be obtained from supplements. Vitamin E supplements can be given to premature babies to prevent vitamin E deficiency, as well as to children and adults who feel that their intake of vitamin E from their diet is not enough.
Keep in mind, the consumption of vitamin E supplements should be consulted with a doctor first . The reason is, if this supplement is not consumed according to the rules and the right dosage, various side effects can arise. One of them is the increased risk of bleeding.