Potential Blindness Linked to Restrictive Eating Habits of Children with ASD

August 21, 2023

Research Shows that Vitamin A Supplementation Can Reverse Eye Damage

Xerophthalmia is a disease that causes dry eyes due to a vitamin A deficiency (VAD).  If the condition goes untreated, xerophthalmia can lead to night blindness and cornea damage, which carries the risk of total blindness. This disease is rare in the United States but is often experienced in developing countries with less access to varied food sources. However, a new study has linked xerophthalmia with children on the spectrum who engage in restrictive diets that consist of only a few, mostly white and tan foods. This case series followed six pediatric patients who developed the disease through VAD due to diet. Each patient had a history of eye irritation not resolved by antibiotic or allergy eye drops. The research team determined that every child in the case series had a history of diets consisting only or primarily of white and tan foods. Blood testing later confirmed severe VAD in each patient. The researchers then treated the children with vitamin A supplementation. The supplementation completely reversed the xerophthalmia in four cases. Sadly, vitamin A supplementation could not help two children’s VAD. These patients had advanced xerophthalmia that resulted in irreversible blindness and ocular damage. The study concludes that identifying patients with VAD through proper screening and evaluation can prevent permanent vision loss. The authors suggest that pediatric providers maintain a high index of suspicion for nutritional deficiencies in high-risk patients with autism. They point out that doctors should aim for early identification and, if appropriate, use vitamin A supplementation to prevent irreversible ocular damage and vision loss.

Original Study Abstract

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