Riboflavin present in all living cells, which means that it can be found in just about any whole food. Riboflavin plays a crucial role in energy metabolism, so it is essential to life. Although riboflavin is essential to life, riboflavin deficiency isn’t associated with a classic deficiency syndrome, like beriberi or pellagra. On the other hand, people with riboflavin deficiency often have deficiencies of the other B vitamins, as well.
The usual signs of riboflavin deficiency include cracked and red lips, especially with cracks at the corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis). There may also be mouth ulcers and inflammation of the lining of the mouth, as well as a sore throat. The eyes may become itchy, watery, bloodshot, and overly sensitive to bright light. Riboflavin deficiency can also cause dry and scaling skin, especially on the scrotum. Sometimes these signs are summarized by the term oral-ocular-genital syndrome. Chronic deficiency of riboflavin can stunt the growth of children. Riboflavin deficiency may also be part of the cause of Parkinson disease.
Riboflavin deficiency is usually found in people who are generally malnourished. This includes alcoholics, anorexics, and people who have trouble absorbing nutrients from their food. The use of oral contraceptives may increase the risk of riboflavin deficiency. Since riboflavin can be destroyed by light, riboflavin supplements are given to newborns who are being treated with ultraviolet light therapy for neonatal jaundice. The ultraviolet light breaks down the riboflavin along with the bilirubin.