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Overdose of Vitamin A: Is It Possible to Overdose on Vitamins?

Overdose of Vitamin A: Is It Possible to Overdose on Vitamins?

Vitamin A is an important nutrient that our body needs to strengthen the immune system, keep our skin healthy, and helps protect our eyes. Though, have you ever thought about what happens when you have an overdose of vitamin A? What effects would it have on your body, and how could it even happen?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Can you have an overdose of vitamin A?

When people hear the word “overdose,” they usually think of overdosing or taking too much drugs. However, you can also potentially overdose on vitamins. In particular, the commonly overdosed vitamins include iron, vitamin D, vitamin E, B vitamins, and lastly, vitamin A1.

With regard to a vitamin A overdose, this condition is referred to as hypervitaminosis A. This essentially means that a person has consumed too much vitamin A to the point that it’s already toxic to their body. The most common way for this to happen would be if a person is taking supplements. Though, a person would need to take a lot of vitamin A in order to have hypervitaminosis A.

How much is too much?

Acute poisoning caused by vitamin A overdose happens when a person takes several hundred thousand IUs or international units of vitamin A. However, chronic poisoning can also happen if a person regularly takes more than 25,000 IUs of vitamin A daily.

To compare, the required amount of vitamin A that a person should take daily is around 3000 IU or 900 micrograms for men, and 2300 IU or 700 micrograms for women. The maximum safe limit for vitamin A is roughly 10,000 IU2.

Chronic poisoning from vitamin A happens because the body can store vitamin A in the liver. This means that if you regularly take more than the recommended amount of vitamin A daily, it’s possible for you to experience chronic poisoning.

Acute poisoning can also happen to children who mistake vitamin A supplements for candies. So it is important to keep any medication, even vitamins, away from the reach of children.

What happens to the body if you overdose?

Here are some of the things that can happen to the body if it has an overdose of vitamin A3:

For acute poisoning:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Rashes or peeling skin
  • Coma or even death

For chronic poisoning:

  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Hepatomegaly or an enlarged liver
  • Splenomegaly or an enlarged spleen
  • Rashes, peeling skin, dry or cracked lips and skin
  • Severe headaches
  • Bones can weaken and fracture easily

Pregnant women also need to be extra careful if they are taking supplements during their pregnancy. This is because going beyond the healthy limit can potentially cause birth defects4.

What should you do if you have an overdose of vitamin A?

If you experience the chronic symptoms of an overdose of vitamin A, the best thing to do would be to stop taking the supplements. Over time, the symptoms should start to disappear as the level of vitamin A in your body gradually goes down. It would also be best to consult your doctor as soon as possible, so they can prescribe you any medication that could help with the symptoms.

For acute vitamin A poisoning, the best thing to do would be to go to the hospital. This is especially important if it happens to a child, as the effects of vitamin A poisoning on their body can be more severe.

Key Takeaways

When it comes to taking any vitamin supplement, it’s important to only do so when necessary, and only in the right amounts. Additionally, we can also get almost all of the vitamins and minerals we need from the food we eat. So it is important to always have a healthy diet.

Learn Other Healthy Eating Tips here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources
  1. Hypervitaminosis A: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000350.htm, Accessed September 13, 2021
  2. Can You Overdose on Vitamins? – Health Beat, https://www.flushinghospital.org/newsletter/can-you-overdose-on-vitamins/, Accessed September 13, 2021
  3. Vitamin A toxicity | DermNet NZ, https://dermnetnz.org/topics/vitamin-a-toxicity, Accessed September 13, 2021
  4. Vitamin A Excess – Disorders of Nutrition – MSD Manual Consumer Version, https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/disorders-of-nutrition/vitamins/vitamin-a-excess, Accessed September 13, 2021
  5. Vitamin A Toxicity – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532916/, Accessed September 13, 2021
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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Sep 21
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel