Hypervitaminosis is vitamin poisoning. In most cases, the cause is misuse of dietary supplements. Even serious health disorders sometimes result from hypervitaminosis.
What is hypervitaminosis?
In most cases, the poisoning causes gastrointestinal problems, headaches and circulatory disorders. Those affected vomit frequently and also suffer from a loss of appetite, which in turn can cause deficiency symptoms. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Hypervitaminosis.
Hypervitaminosis is what doctors and nutritionists call a clinical picture that is based on an overdose of a vitamin.
Hypervitaminosis is conceptually opposed to hypovitaminosis. These are vitamin deficiency symptoms. If there is a complete lack of a vitamin in the diet, an avitaminosis is present. Hypervitaminosis is also called vitamin intoxication or vitamin poisoning. Doctors distinguish between an acute and a chronic form of the harmful vitamin excess.
Hypervitaminosis is mainly caused by lipophilic (fat-soluble) vitamins that can accumulate in the body’s tissues. The group of hydrophilic (water-soluble) vitamins is less likely to cause symptoms of poisoning. The organism excretes these vital substances through the kidneys. Therefore, the hydrophilic vitamins are practically never responsible for hypervitaminosis.
Hypervitaminosis results from too much intake of a vitamin. This almost always happens when patients have taken too many vitamin supplements. Other dietary supplements, which often contain vitamins as additives, can also be the cause.
However, it is not always self-medication that causes a toxic excess of the otherwise essential vitamins. The doctor also uses vitamins therapeutically, which has also led to an overdose. Caution is also advisable in the clinical area, for example if patients have to be fed “artificially”. Gastric tube feeding contains a high proportion of vitamins and carries the risk of an overdose, especially if administered over a long period of time.
The same applies to parenteral nutrition (infusion) for weeks. A normal diet with common foods very rarely leads to hypervitaminosis. Only the consumption of excess amounts of liver can lead to intoxication because of its high vitamin A content. The concentration of the vitamin is particularly high in the livers of arctic mammals. Therefore, the Inuit do not eat polar bear liver, thereby avoiding hypervitaminosis.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Hypervitaminosis can cause various symptoms and symptoms depending on its severity. In most cases, the poisoning causes gastrointestinal problems, headaches and circulatory disorders. Those affected vomit frequently and also suffer from a loss of appetite, which in turn can cause deficiency symptoms. This can be accompanied by dizziness, lack of coordination and lethargy.
In the case of severe poisoning, there are also visual disturbances such as double vision or blurred vision. Externally, hypervitaminosis can be recognized by the cracked corners of the mouth and the excessively pale skin. The skin damage can spread to the entire body and often leaves scars. The fingernails are often brittle and have light spots.
In general, hypervitaminosis severely limits the patient’s quality of life. In the worst case, cardiac arrhythmias or a circulatory collapse occur. Furthermore, intracranial pressure can increase, which can lead to restricted movement and signs of paralysis. When the poisoning is treated, there are usually no further symptoms.
However, the detoxification is an additional burden for the already weakened body. Hypervitaminosis usually occurs immediately after the overdose of vitamins or occurs over the course of several weeks to months.
Diagnosis & History
The symptoms of acute hypervitaminosis are not dissimilar to other poisonings. Gastrointestinal complaints, headaches and circulatory disorders occur. The doctor will ask about the medication taken through a patient interview. This is how he gets on the track of an overdose of dietary supplements and vitamin preparations.
Chronic vitamin intoxications are more difficult to unmask. For example, skin irritations or an enlarged liver are initially assigned to other diseases. The suspicion of chronic hypervitaminosis is often far away here because the disease is relatively rare. This diagnostic problem is generally characteristic of the phenomenon. But finally, the doctor recognizes, for example, vitamin D intoxication based on targeted blood tests.
In addition to an increased concentration of the vitamin in the blood serum, the calcium concentration is also increased. This is critical because calcium is then missing in the bones. In the long term, there is a risk of osteoporosis (softening of the bones). Children can even suffer from growth disorders as a result of vitamin D hypervitaminosis. Even deaths have been described.
No less dangerous are vitamin A hypervitaminosis. At the initial stage, intoxication begins with headaches and nausea up to vomiting. In the acute form, an increase in intercranial pressure (increased intracranial pressure) can even follow. Medical treatment is then urgently required, otherwise there is a risk of brain damage from hypervitaminosis.
Abuse of supplements or other substances that contain many vitamins can lead to a relatively large number of complaints and complications. In most cases, hypervitaminosis primarily leads to nausea and dizziness. The affected person has to vomit frequently and also suffers from a loss of appetite. This can lead to underweight.
It is not uncommon for hypervitaminosis to lead to coordination disorders and concentration problems. The eyes can also be affected by the disease, resulting in blurred vision or double vision. The corners of the mouth tear and hurt when eating. In general, the patient’s quality of life is extremely reduced by the symptoms of hypervitaminosis.
In the worst case, it can lead to serious poisoning or circulatory disorders. The pressure in the brain can also increase, which can lead to paralysis and restricted movement. In most cases, there are no further complications in the treatment of hypervitaminosis.
The symptoms will disappear on their own once the excessive intake of vitamins is stopped. If there is an acute emergency, medication can also be used to relieve the symptoms. Life expectancy is not reduced by hypervitaminosis.
When should you go to the doctor?
Hypervitaminosis does not necessarily require a doctor’s visit. If the overdose is minimal, it is often sufficient if enough water is consumed. In addition, the person concerned should take it easy and get enough rest. If the symptoms disappear completely within a few hours, no further medical care is required. In the future, the consumption of vitamin supplements should be monitored more closely. If the hypervitaminosis is more pronounced, various symptoms of increasing intensity appear immediately after taking the preparations. A doctor’s visit is necessary because treatment needs to be initiated. If vomiting, nausea or dizziness occurs repeatedly, these signs should be presented to a doctor.
In case of diarrhea, cramps or pain, a doctor is needed. The intake of other preparations should be stopped and painkillers should be avoided. Only in consultation with a doctor can it be clarified which medication should be used. If you have coordination problems, attention problems or lethargy, you should consult a doctor. If the person concerned suffers from sleep disorders, visual impairments or double vision, he needs medical help. If the corners of the mouth are torn, the mouth is dry or you lose your appetite, you should consult a doctor. Emotional problems, apathy, or inner weakness develop after overdosing over a long period of time. Exhaustion and tiredness should also be clarified.
Treatment & Therapy
In the case of hypervitaminosis, the doctor must first identify the cause of the overdose. It may not be easy to dissuade the patient from self-medication. Because vitamin preparations are now available as dietary supplements in every supermarket and therefore have no risk.
In mild cases of acute hypervitaminosis, stopping consumption is enough. If the symptoms are severe, the doctor may need to take medication. In the case of vitamin D poisoning, the therapy is aimed at lowering the calcium level with water-repellent pharmaceuticals (diuretics).
Vitamin A hypervitaminosis is also treated in a similar way. Here, an increase in intercranial pressure must also be ruled out, but possibly treated. An excess of vitamin C can trigger digestive problems, and kidney stones are also known to be the result of this hypervitaminosis.
For the consumer, preventing hypervitaminosis means being careful with vitamin supplements. Particular attention should be paid to the quantities of vitamin A and D in the products concerned. Excessive consumption of liver will not usually occur, but the high vitamin A content may also have to be taken into account here. Anyone who takes this to heart avoids hypervitaminosis.
Following a successfully treated hypervitaminosis, various follow-up measures are necessary. In the context of hypervitaminosis, patients suffer from numerous ailments that cause considerable stress to the organism. The body has to recover from these physical and psychological stresses after the illness.
For this reason, part of the follow-up care consists of observing physical rest for some time after the end of the therapy. Another essential part of aftercare is that the patient visits the doctor at regular intervals and has his blood values analyzed in a laboratory. The blood levels of those vitamins that were responsible for the hypervitaminosis are particularly relevant.
The results of the analysis must be discussed by the doctor with the person concerned. In the course of this, the patient usually receives information about his diet and vitamin intake. Follow-up care also includes the affected person finding a professional nutritionist and having him create a menu for them.
Thus, follow-up care for hypervitaminosis also includes measures to prevent a new disease. The patient’s blood values should be checked at frequent intervals for a few months after the illness, and then in larger cycles. In addition, regular check-ups with the endocrinologist are useful in order to identify and treat any metabolic disorders in good time.
You can do that yourself
Hypervitaminosis does not always require medical treatment. Water- soluble vitamins can simply be flushed out in the event of an overdose. It is usually sufficient to drink enough water or diuretic teas.
For vitamin D poisoning, the doctor should prescribe a mild medication to flush out the excess vitamins. In the case of mild hypervitaminosis, it is usually sufficient to reduce or stop consumption. In the event of an overdose of vitamin A, medical advice is required. In addition to the medical treatment, the patient should be kept in bed for at least two to three days. A gentle diet, which should contain as little vitamin A as possible, supports recovery. A long-term change in diet protects against renewed hypervitaminosis and other complaints.
Various natural and household remedies help against the individual symptoms. Willow bark tea, for example, has proven effective in reducing headaches and stimulating appetite. Classic medicinal plants such as chamomile or lemon balm, also taken in the form of tea, capsules or dragees, help with nausea and vomiting. If the symptoms have not subsided after two to three days at the latest, the doctor must be informed. It is then best to refrain from further self-help measures.