Iodine deficiency and its health consequences

Chronic iodine deficiency can be detrimental to your health. Shortage of iodine decreases thyroid hormone production and results in a slowed metabolism. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)11. The visible and unmistakable effect of iodine deficiency is goiter. To prevent these serious diseases it is important to recognize the early signs of an iodine deficiency.

Here, you can read more and find out how goiter and nodules form in the first place — also how to recognise them and how to treat them.

The following symptoms may indicate a lack of iodine:

  • Sensation of pressure and tightness in the throat (typical “lump” feeling)
  • Swallowing and breathing problems
  • Greater neck circumference
  • Fatigue, poor concentration
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Dry hair and skin

In children:

  • Tiredness, poor concentration and lethargy
  • Decline in school performance (Iodine deficiency depresses IQ by 10-15 points12 )
  • Mental and physical retardation

The most serious consequences of iodine deficiency occur in women who are pregnant or nursing their infants and in children. Sufficient iodine, and hence enough thyroid hormones, is essential for normal development of the brain and the nervous system. The most serious disorder due to severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy is cretinism, a condition of stunted physical and mental growth. But even mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy can be associated with low intelligence in children.13

Sufficient iodine is the best prevention of these complications as well as of others, such as stillbirth, miscarriages or poor growth.11

Useful resources

If you want to know more about iodine supply and iodine deficiency you can visit the following websites:

http://www.iccidd.org
The International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD) is a non-profit, non-government organization for the sustainable elimination of iodine deficiency and the promotion of optimal iodine nutrition worldwide)

http://www.unicef.org/progressforchildren/2007n6/index_41509.htm
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) publishes “Progress for Children”, a statistical review that documents progress towards the “Millennium Development Goals”.

http://www.thyroid.org/patients/patient_brochures/iodine_deficiency.html
Patient information on thyroid health published by the American Thyroid Association (ATA)

References