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, fatigue, and other symptoms. Prolonged, severe hypothyroidism resulting from an iodine deficiency is rare in the United States, but can be associated with thickening of the skin, protrusion of the eyes, severe depression, declining mental function, heart failure, and coma.

Common symptoms of iodine deficiency

Common symptoms that can occur with prolonged iodine deficiency include:

  • Constipation
  • Depressed mood
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid, creating a mass in the neck)
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Menstrual cycle abnormalities
  • Protrusion of the eyes
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Thinning and brittleness of the hair and nails
  • Unintended weight gain
  • Weakness

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, iodine deficiency can be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:

  • Being a danger to oneself or others, including threatening, irrational or suicidal behavior
  • Bleeding while pregnant
  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness
  • Change in mental status or behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations or delusions
  • Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure, palpitations
  • Respiratory or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, wheezing, not breathing, or choking

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.... Read more about iodine deficiencyintroduction


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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