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Iodine Deficiency

What Is Iodine Deficiency?

Iodine deficiency occurs when your body lacks iodine – an important trace mineral. Cells need iodine to convert food into energy. Iodine supports the thyroid gland in your neck. Your thyroid uses iodine to make thyroid hormones, which control the rate of heartbeats, digestion and other functions.

Without enough iodine, your thyroid gland works harder. It can become swollen or enlarged (goiter). Sometimes the gland can’t make enough thyroid hormones – a condition called hypothyroidism.

Iodine deficiency is more common in women. It increases your risk of conditions such as:

Iodine supports central nervous system development. Though rare, deficiency can stunt physical and mental growth.

Causes of iodine deficiency can include:

  • Eating foods from iodine-poor soil
  • Poor diet and nutrition

Autoimmune conditions can cause hypothyroidism in teens. Teens with a family history of autoimmune disease – including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, type 1 diabetes or Graves’ disease – have a higher risk. Children with Down syndrome are at risk of thyroid disease.


Symptoms of iodine deficiency and related thyroid disorders can include:

  • Swelling of thyroid glands in the neck
  • A visible lump (goiter) on your neck
  • Weight gain, fatigue and weakness
  • Thinning hair
  • Dry skin
  • Feeling colder than usual
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Learning and memory difficulties
  • Heavy or irregular periods

Iodine Deficiency Symptoms in Infants

  • Frequent choking
  • Enlarged tongue
  • Puffy face
  • Constipation
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Sleeping more often

Hypothyroidism Symptoms in Youth

Similar to those of adults, but may also include:

  • Delayed development of permanent teeth
  • Delayed puberty
  • Slowed mental development
  • Shorter than average height or limbs

Treatment Options

Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, history and condition, including any related conditions. Treatment for iodine deficiency may include:

  • Taking iodine supplements
  • Using iodized salt (table salt with iodine added)

Dietary changes can correct iodine deficiency. Good sources of iodine include:

  • Bread
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Iodized table salt
  • Kelp – a sea vegetable
  • Meats
  • Nuts
  • Seafood
  • Seaweed

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of iodine deficiency, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat iodine deficiency.