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Vitamin A and Vitamin E

A clinical trial, undertaken in the USA and completed in 1993, demonstrated a small beneficial effect on visual function of vitamin A and a deleterious effect of vitamin E. As a result, the Foundation Fighting Blindness and the National Eye Institute in the USA jointly recommended that most adults with RP should take a daily 15,000 international units of vitamin A palmitate supplement and avoid high dose vitamin E to help prolong their vision.

The findings of this trial have been questioned by other authorities. The documented beneficial effect was seen only on electrophysiological testing (ERG testing ('Electrical testing')). However the effect was very small and no beneficial effect was found on visual acuity or visual field loss. This form of treatment has not gained widespread acceptance; with the vast majority of specialists in inherited retinal conditions not recommending Vitamin A to their patients.

Vitamin A palmitate therapy is not recommended for those under age 18 years. Although toxicity with long-term use has not been noted, routine monitoring of blood vitamin A concentration and liver function has been recommended for any individual on vitamin A palmitate therapy. Women of childbearing age need to be cautioned about potential harmful effects of high-dose vitamin A on the unborn child. It is recommended that people with RP who wish to commence vitamin A therapy should consult with their GP prior to starting treatment.

As vitamin E may adversely affect the course of RP, it is recommended that individuals with RP avoid high-dose supplements.

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