What is iodine deficiency?

Iodine is an element your thyroid needs to make thyroid hormones. If your diet is deficient in iodine, your thyroid gland will enlarge as it tries to increase the production of thyroid hormones. The enlarged thyroid can cause a mass in the neck known as a goiter. As thyroid levels fall, hypothyroidism develops.

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Hypothyroidism slows your metabolism, causing such symptoms as fatigue, weight gain, weakness, increased cold sensitivity, constipation, dry skin, and depressed mood. Your hair and nails may be thin and brittle and, if you are female, your menstrual cycle may become abnormal. Left untreated, your skin may swell and thicken, your eyes may seem to protrude, mental function may decline, and you may ultimately lapse into a coma.

Iodine is also critical for development. Babies born of mothers who have an iodine deficiency may have problems, such as mental retardation, deaf-mutism, gait abnormalities, and growth abnormalities. Infants and children who do not get enough iodine may also have cognitive difficulties, but those may be reversible.

Iodine deficiency is rare in the United States, partly because table salt is often iodized. Dairy products, eggs, seafood, seaweed, some meats, and some breads are also dietary sources of iodine. The best method of treating iodine deficiency is avoiding it in the first place. If it develops, however, it can be treated with iodine supplementation and dietary modifications.

Severe complications of iodine deficiency are rare in the United States. If you notice an enlarging mass in your neck or develop symptoms suggestive of hypothyroidism, seek prompt medical care. Severe depression, difficulty breathing, chest pain or pressure, change in mental status, and change in level of consciousness are complications of hypothyroidism that, rarely, may develop as a result of long-standing iodine deficiency. If these symptoms develop, seek immediate medical care (call 911). Severe iodine deficiency also increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth; seek immediate medical care for any bleeding during pregnancy or concerns about fetal well-being.


What are the symptoms of iodine deficiency?

Initially, iodine deficiency may not have any symptoms. As the thyroid reacts to lower iodine levels, it tries to produce more thyroid hormones. This ultimately leads to enlargement of the thyroid.

As levels of thyroid hormones drop, the metabolism begins to slow. This can lead to weight gain, constipation, fati... Read more about iodine deficiencysymptoms


What causes iodine deficiency?

Our bodies do not produce iodine, so it must come from our diet. Iodine deficiency is rare in the United States, partly due to widespread use of iodized salt. Because animal feed is also often supplemented with iodine, meat and dairy products tend to be high in iodine.

Natural sources of iodine include food from the sea and from areas where the soil is rich in iodine. Worldwide, m... Read more about iodine deficiencycauses


How is iodine deficiency treated?

The main treatment for iodine deficiency is avoiding it in the first place. The introduction of iodized salt has greatly reduced the occurrence of iodine deficiency in the United States and throughout many parts of the world.

Should iodine deficiency develop, the treatment is iodine replacement. Adding iodized table salt and foods high in iodine to the diet may be enough to achiev... Read more about iodine deficiencytreatments

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Diabetes and the Endocrine System

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