Vitamin A

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Vitamin A supplements are taken to prevent vitamin A deficiency (although this is rare in the UK).

You should not take vitamin A supplements if you are pregnant.

Type of medicineVitamin A
Used forTo prevent or treat vitamin A deficiency
Also calledRetinol
Available asCapsules or drops

Vitamin A is a vitamin which is important for healthy eyes, good eyesight and a healthy skin. It also helps you to fight infections.

Your doctor may recommend that you (or your child) take a supplement of vitamin A if you cannot get sufficient from your normal diet, or if you are at risk of vitamin A deficiency for some other reason. Vitamin A supplements usually contain other vitamins also, such as vitamin D and vitamin C. They are available to buy without a prescription.

To make sure that this is the right treatment for you, before you start taking vitamin A it is important that you speak with your doctor or pharmacist:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding. This is because you are advised not to take vitamin A supplements during pregnancy or if you are breast-feeding, unless prescribed by a doctor.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines. It is particularly important that you say if you are taking a retinoid preparation (such as isotretinoin) for a skin condition.
  • Before you start taking a vitamin A supplement, please read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack.
  • Vitamin supplements are usually taken once a day. Your doctor, pharmacist or health visitor will tell you how much you (or your child) should take. The dose will also be on the label of the pack. You can take vitamin supplements at whatever time of day you find easiest to remember. They can be taken either before or after meals.
  • Do not take more than the dose which has been recommended or prescribed.
  • Foods that contain vitamin A are eggs, milk, liver and fish-liver oils. Another substance called beta-carotene (which is found in green leafy and orange/yellow vegetables and fruits) can be converted by your body into vitamin A and so is also a good source. Try to regularly include some of these foods in your meals.
  • Just a reminder that you should not take vitamin A supplements if you are (or think you may be) pregnant. This includes taking fish-liver oil preparations. This is because there is evidence to suggest that high levels of vitamin A can cause problems in babies. Also, you should not eat liver or liver-containing foods such as liver pâté or liver sausage because they too contain a lot of vitamin A.
  • Before buying or taking any 'over-the-counter' medicines, please check with a pharmacist which medicines are safe for you to take alongside vitamin A.

Although vitamin A is unlikely to cause any side-effects at the recommended doses, large overdoses can be associated with unwanted effects. If you experience any symptoms which you think may be due to the medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital for advice. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Do not give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about the medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 69th Edition (Mar 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
1511 (v24)
Last Checked:
29/09/2015
Next Review:
28/09/2018
The Information Standard - certified member

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