The major cause of blindness in children worldwide is xerophthalmia caused by vitamin A deficiency. In addition it has other adverse effects, including increased mortality and the term vitamin A deficiency disorders (VADD) has been introduced to cover the whole clinical spectrum of disease. The ocular manifestations of xerophthalmia have been classified and a set of prevalence criteria for the detection of a problem of public health magnitude has been in use for more than two decades. The global prevalence of VADD is now well documented and World Health Organization (WHO) receives information continuously for updating its data base on the subject. The pathogenesis of the disease is still imperfectly understood, it is not at all clear precisely why certain subjects in vulnerable communities develop xerophthalmia, while the majority are spared. A schedule for treatment of the established case has been available for a long time, but at both clinic and hospital level concentrated sources of vitamin A for treatment are frequently not available. More emphasis needs to be laid on prevention and a choice of methods consisting of large dose supplementation, fortification of food, control of precipitating infections and dietary improvement. The advantages and drawbacks of each are discussed.
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