After a Texas woman had gastrointestinal surgery, she lost weight as expected—but she also lost her vision. According to a study published last week in JAMA Ophthalmology, the woman in her 40s started complaining of deteriorating vision, eye pain, and lesions on her eyes. Study author Kyle Kirkland tells Live Science those are all symptoms of a severe vitamin A deficiency. He says people who don't get enough vitamin A can suffer from dangerously dry eyes, leading to symptoms such as the woman was experiencing. The only catch: Vitamin A is plentiful in our food, and severe deficiencies are rare in the US.
It turns out the woman's eye problems were caused by the weight-loss surgery she had a year earlier. The bariatric surgery made her stomach smaller but also created a bypass for part of her small intestine, which is responsible for absorbing both calories and nutrients. The surgery effectively reduced the amount of vitamin A her body could absorb. The woman's eye problems cleared up after she received vitamin A intravenously, but Kirkland says that's not a permanent fix and not all eye problems caused by vitamin A deficiencies are reversible. He worries eye problems like those suffered by the woman will become more common in the US as weight-loss surgeries continue their rise in popularity. (This implantable device approved by the FDA could make weight-loss surgeries obsolete.)