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10 Signs and Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency

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10 Signs and Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency

Diabetes and Endocrine Sciences | Posted on 05/15/2023 by RBH

Have you been experiencing neck swelling and weight gain? Did you know that iodine deficiency can be the primary cause of this. Iodine deficiency is a global public health problem affecting millions of people, particularly in low-income countries. Iodine is an important micronutrient playing a crucial role for the normal growth and development of the brain, mainly during foetal and early childhood stages. Lack of proper iodine intake causes goitre, hypothyroidism, cretinism, and impaired cognitive function, which leads to significant long-term effects on individuals. This blog examines the signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency, causes and effects of iodine deficiency and possible measures to prevent it. So, make sure to give it a good read till the end. However, please note that it is for informational purposes only and doesn’t rule out consulting a doctor. If you are facing any health issues or problems, you should consult an endocrinologist in Jaipur for better guidance and treatment.

What is iodine deficiency disease?

Iodine deficiency disease happens when the thyroid gland doesn’t have sufficient iodine; it requires proper functioning. It means that the body lacks iodine. There is a requirement of an appropriate amount of iodine for the metabolism and for the right thyroid gland functioning. Iodine deficiency is one of the most common causes of thyroid illness and, when it is serious, then it leads to brain damage and intellectual disability permanently specifically in babies. The body requires iodine to produce thyroid hormone in the thyroid gland.

What causes iodine deficiency?

The iodine deficiency causes can vary depending on the geographic location and dietary habits of an individual, but some common causes are:

  • Low iodine intake: One of the main causes of iodine deficiency disorder is a lack of iodine in the diet. In areas where these foods are not readily available, people may not get sufficient iodine in their diet.
  • Soil depletion: In areas where the soil is low in iodine, the crops grown in that soil will also be low in iodine. This can lead to iodine deficiency in people who consume these crops.
  • Lack of iodized salt: People may not get enough iodine in their diet in areas where iodized salt is not widely available or used.
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Pregnant and breastfeeding women require more iodine than other adults because they need to support the growth and development of their baby's thyroid gland. If they do not get enough iodine in their diet, it can lead to iodine deficiency in both the mother and the baby.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal disorders, can affect the body's ability to absorb iodine from food. This can lead to iodine deficiency, even if the person is consuming enough iodine in their diet.
  • Radiation exposure: Exposure to high levels of radiation can damage the thyroid gland and reduce its ability to produce thyroid hormones causing iodine deficiency, even if the person is consuming enough iodine in their diet.

Signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency

When the body is not getting sufficient amounts of iodine, it causes iodine deficiency leading to a range of iodine deficiency symptoms. Let’s have a look at some of the common symptoms below:

  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goitre): Iodine deficiency causes the thyroid gland to enlarge, resulting in a noticeable lump or neck swelling.
  • Fatigue and weakness: Body can feel weak and fatigued when there is a lack of iodine, even after a good night's sleep.
  • Dry, flaky skin: Iodine deficiency causes the skin to become dry, itchy, and flaky.
  • Hair loss: Hair becomes thin and brittle, leading to hair loss when there is iodine deficiency in the body.
  • Weight gain: Iodine deficiency can disrupt the body's metabolism, hence causing weight gain and difficulty to lose weight.
  • Impaired mental function: Impair cognitive function, resulting in poor memory and difficulty concentrating can be seen if there is iodine deficiency in the body.
  • Depression and anxiety: Iodine deficiency affects mental health also, leading to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Constipation: Iodine deficiency can slow down the digestive system and cause constipation.
  • Cold intolerance: Body with iodine deficiency becomes more sensitive to cold temperatures, resulting in a feeling of constant coldness.

How is iodine deficiency diagnosed?

The doctor will initiate iodine deficiency disease diagnosis through a combination of clinical examination and laboratory tests. Here are some tests commonly used to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Clinical examination: A doctor begins the diagnosis with a physical examination to look for signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency.
  • Urinary iodine test: This is a simple and reliable test which assists in measuring the amount of iodine in the urine. 
  • Blood tests: Blood tests help in measuring the levels of thyroid hormones, thyroglobulin, and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood. These tests diagnose iodine deficiency because low levels of thyroid hormones and high levels of TSH indicate an underactive thyroid gland. 
  • Thyroid ultrasound: An ultrasound helps to identify changes in the size and structure of the gland indiating iodine deficiency.

It's worth noting that not all individuals with iodine deficiency exhibit symptoms, and not every person with a goitre or an underactive thyroid has iodine deficiency disease. Hence, the right diagnosis of iodine deficiency needs a combination of clinical examination and laboratory tests.

What are the iodine deficiency treatment options?

There are different options available for iodine deficiency treatment depending on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause. Mild cases of iodine deficiency can often be treated by enhancing dietary intake of iodine-rich foods, like seafood, seaweed, and iodized salt. In areas where iodine deficiency is common, iodine supplements are usually recommended for the prevention and treatment both.

For more severe cases of iodine deficiency, such as those that have caused goitre or hypothyroidism, medical treatment might be required. It can include using thyroid hormone replacement therapy or iodine supplementation in the form of potassium iodide or iodized oil.

In cases where iodine deficiency occurs due to an underlying medical condition, like an autoimmune disorder, it will be treated in addition to iodine supplementation. Since excessive iodine intake can also have negative health effects, it's important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate treatment for iodine deficiency.

What are the tips for iodine deficiency prevention?

Iodine deficiency can lead to serious health problems, including goitre, intellectual disability, and hypothyroidism. Here are some tips for iodine deficiency prevention:

  • Consume iodine-rich foods
  • Use iodized salt
  • Take iodine supplements 
  • Be aware of goitrogenic foods
  • Check your sources of water
  • Consult with a endocrinologist


Iodine deficiency causes some serious consequences on human health, primarily on the proper thyroid gland functions. Itl leads to issues like goitre, hypothyroidism, cretinism, and other developmental issues, especially in foetuses and young children.Iodine deficiency is preventable through adequate dietary intake of iodine-rich foods. Public health interventions like salt iodization programs have been very successful in various countries to reduce iodine deficiency disorders.

It is essential to know that iodine intake in an excessive amount can also have bad consequences on health, such as hyperthyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis. Therefore, it is recommended to maintain a balanced iodine intake and to consult with professional healthcare services like Rukmani Birla Hospital, one of the best multispeciality hospitals in Jaipur if there are any concerns about iodine deficiency.


Which disease is caused by a deficiency of iodine?

Iodine deficiency can cause a range of diseases such as goitre, hypothyroidism, and cretinism. 

What is the most common cause of iodine deficiency?

The most common cause of iodine deficiency is absence of enough iodine in the diet. 

How does iodine deficiency cause hypothyroidism?

Iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism by reducing the thyroid gland's efficiency to produce enough thyroid hormones to meet the body's requirements.