4 Symptoms of an Iodine Deficiency

Most of the symptoms of iodine deficiency affect the thyroid gland, as this mineral is closely related to the secretion of thyroid hormones. As these symptoms may sometimes represent serious health problems, you are highly recommended to treat iodine deficiency as soon as it is noticed. Below are detailed four of the symptoms that appear when this mineral is depleted from your body.

1. Goiter

Goiter represents the enlargement of the thyroid gland. This problem is noticed on the front and on the sides of the neck. Goiter develops when T3 (triiodiothyronine) blood levels are abnormally low and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is overproduced. T3 is one of the hormones secreted by the thyroid gland. Keep in mind that the secretion of this hormone also requires iodine. An enlarged thyroid is usually accompanied by such symptoms as:

  • Choking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing

The goiter and the associated symptoms can be avoided if iodized salt is used instead of normal salt. Also, iodine supplementation can effectively relieve the symptoms and treat this problem.

2. Cretinism

Iodine deficiency may also cause IQ drops that range between 10 and 15 IQ points, a fact that leads to mental retardation. However, such a problem can be easily prevented if the iodine intake is sufficient. Signs that indicate cretinism include:

  • Deafness
  • Gait
  • Mental deficiency
  • Posture disorders
  • Strabismus
  • Inhibited growth
  • Walking disorders

Such symptoms are noticed more often in infants with iodine deficiency.

3. Hypothyroidism

There is a tight connection between cretinism and hypothyroidism. In fact, cretinism represents a variety of hypothyroidism. In general, this hormonal disorder appears when the thyroid gland is not able to secrete a sufficient amount of hormones. More precisely, this happens when iodine is deficient. Below are the symptoms: 

  • Abnormal menstrual cycles
  • Bradycardia
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Constipation
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Intolerance to low temperatures
  • Joint pain
  • Low body temperature
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle hypotonia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Paleness
  • Water retention
  • Weight gain

Instead of using iodine supplementation, this health problem is treated directly with hormone tablets, which are either synthetic or derived from animal thyroid hormones.

4. Problems That May Appear During Pregnancy

Both pregnant and nursing women need to have their iodine levels checked periodically, as a deficiency may have grave effects on them and on their babies. Some of the problems that pregnant and nursing women may be confronted with include:

  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Miscarriage
  • Preterm delivery
  • Stillbirth

More than that, if the delivery goes on without any incidents, the baby may suffer from:

  • Deafness
  • Mental retardation
  • Problems with growth
  • Speech disorders

Because of this fact, it can be concluded that cretinism in infants is primarily caused by the iodine deficiency of the mother. However, as mentioned before, such problems occur only in severe deficiency cases. Mild deficiency in pregnant women, on the other hand, is correlated with low intelligence in children.

As you can see, the problems caused by iodine deficiency can be quite serious. Fortunately, the symptoms of iodine deficiency can be both prevented and treated. In some situations the treatment may be based on iodine supplementation, while other cases require hormonal treatments. Depending on how grave the deficiency is, doctors may recommend iodized salt or tablets that contain this mineral. In either case, iodine is efficient and treats the symptoms.


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