Beta-carotene is the natural form of vitamin A is one of a group of red, orange, and yellow pigments called carotenoids. Beta-carotene and other carotenoids provide approximately 50% of the vitamin A needed in the American diet. Beta-carotene can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It can also be made in a laboratory.
Beta-carotene is used to decrease asthma symptoms caused by exercise; to prevent certain cancers, heart disease, cataracts, and age related macular degeneration (AMD); and to treat AIDS, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, epilepsy, headache, heartburn, high blood pressure, infertility, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, and skin disorders including psoriasis and vitiligo. Vitamin A is used for vitamin A deficiency, improving vision, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataracts, infection, and improving immune function. It is also used orally for skin conditions including acne, eczema, psoriasis, cold sores, wounds, burns, sunburn, keratosis follicularis (Darier’s disease), ichthyosis (non-inflammatory skin scaling), lichen planuspigmentosus, and pityriasisrubrapilaris. It is also used for diabetes mellitus, fever, liver disease, or cystic fibrosis with liver involvement, reduced sperm count, gastrointestinal ulcers, Crohn’s disease, periodontal disease, Hurler syndrome (mucopolysaccharidosis), sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Vitamin A is also used for reducing complications of measles, shigellosis, atrophic rhinitis, loss of sense of smell, asthma, persistent headaches, kidney stones, hyperthyroidism, anemia, deafness, tinnitus, and leukoplakia. Other oral uses include preventing and treating cancer, degenerative diseases of the nervous system, protecting the heart and cardiovascular system (antioxidant effects), and slowing the aging process. Vitamin A is used orally to decrease morbidity associated with malaria in children, and to reduce morbidity and mortality from pneumonia and HIV in children with vitamin A deficiency.