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Vitamin E Deficiency In Childhood

Vitamin E deficiency is relatively common in premature infants because the placenta doesn't transmit fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin E, very well and because prematurity worsens the deficiency that results from poor transmission.
A formula high in polyunsaturated fatty acids increases the vitamin E requirement, particularly for premature infants who absorb vitamin E poorly. Vitamin E deficiency may also occur in children who have disorders that interfere with fat absorption, such as cystic fibrosis and certain genetic abnormalities . Administering excessive amounts of iron may also aggravate vitamin E deficiency.

Premature infants who are deficient in vitamin E may have muscle weakness together with hemolytic anemia at 6 to 10 weeks of age, associated with reduced blood levels of vitamin E. These problems can be corrected by giving vitamin E supplements. Vitamin E deficiency plays a role in the development of retinopathy of prematurity , an eye problem that's aggravated by exposure to high oxygen levels in incubators. Children with intestinal malabsorption may develop severe vitamin E deficiency, which produces a variety of neurologic symptoms, such as reduced reflexes, difficulty in walking, double vision, loss of position sense, and muscle weakness. These symptoms worsen progressively but may be reversed with treatment.
The diagnosis is established by measuring the blood level of vitamin E.

From The Merck Manual of Medical Information Home Edition , edited by Mark H. Beers and Robert Berkow. Copyright 1997 by Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ:

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