Iodine deficiency disorder: Causes and symptoms

Iodine (atomic weight 126.9 u/atom) is an essential component of the hormones produced by the thyroid gland. The importance of iodine as an essential element arises from the fact that it is a constituent of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine.

These hormones are essential for normal growth and physical and mental development in animals and man.

While rare in the United States, iodine deficiency is a common condition in developing countries worldwide. People in areas far from water or at higher altitudes don’t get enough iodine through seafood or dairy.

The most severe deficient soils are those of the European Alps, the Himalayas, the Andes and the vast mountains of China.

Deficiency arises when dietary iodine intake does not meet requirements. The diet is likely to be deficient whenever the soil content of iodine is low, which is often the case in mountainous regions.

An iodine deficiency can cause uncomfortable and even severe symptoms. They include swelling in the neck, pregnancy-related issues, weight gain and learning difficulties.

Iodine deficiency leads to inadequate production of thyroid hormone that indispensable for brain growth and development.

The iodine deficiency disorders consist of wide spectrum, including mental retardation, impaired physical development, increased prenatal and infant mortality, hypothyroidism, cretinism and goiter.

One of the first signs of iodine deficiency is the enlargement of thyroid. This is a condition called goiter. Goiter is defined as an enlargement of the thyroid gland and cretinism is a term used for a severe form of iodine deficiency characterized by severe mental retardation. Thyroid slowly grows larger as it tries to keep up with human body’s demand for more thyroid hormone.

Unexpected weight gain is another sign of an iodine deficiency. It may occur if the body does not have enough iodine to make thyroid hormones.

This is because thyroid hormones help control the speed of metabolism, which is the process by which human body converts food into energy and heat.

The most severe damage due to iodine deficiency occurs from the fetal period to the third month after birth, during which iodine deficiency can produce cretinism, an irreversible form of mental retardation.
Iodine deficiency disorder: Causes and symptoms

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