Iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) is one of the most common disorders observed in global population. Iodine is the trace minerals which is an essential micronutrient for the proper functioning of the body. Iodine is not found in the body hence it must be consumed externally.  Iodine deficiency can cause several health conditions and sometimes that may be even irreversible (1, 2, 3). 

What is Iodine Deficiency?

Iodine deficiency is the health condition caused by long-term inadequacy of Iodine in human body. It may be caused by inadequate intake of Iodine rich diet, soil poor in iodine, causes low concentration of iodine in food or presence of pre-existing health condition which affects the absorption of iodine in our body (1).

Functions of Iodine

Iodine is the element responsible for the synthesization thyroid hormone in human body. Its deficiency leads to hypothyroidism, brain damage, intellectual disabilities, irreversible mental retardation, goitre, cretinism and many more if not treated at the right time. It also acts as neurotransmitters and helps in maintain healthy heart and muscle functions (1, 3).

Causes of Iodine Deficiency

The condition of iodine deficiency can be developed due to various factors. Some of the major cause have been illustrated below:

  • Inadequate Diet: The most common cause of Iodine deficiency across the globe is our diet. We often consume foods which are poor in essential vitamins and minerals such as Iodine.
  • Soil Poor in Iodine: Soil composition affects the concentration of micronutrients in agriculture produce. Soil poor in iodine produces food items with low concentration of iodine.
  • GI Disorders: Iodine deficiency disorders can also be caused by malabsorption. The inadequate absorption of Iodine can happen due to several underlying health condition such gastrointestinal disorders. 

Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency 

The common symptoms of Iodine deficiency include (4, 5):

  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Fatigue
  • Puffy face
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Feeling cold
  • Swollen neck
  • Depression
  • Memory loss

The common symptoms of Iodine deficiency in children and adolescents (4, 5):

  • Goitre
  • Delayed physical growth
  • Retarded sexual development
  • Impaired mental functions

Health Risks due to Iodine Deficiency

  • Hypothyroidism: Iodine is the trace mineral which regulates the production of thyroid in our body. It can cause unexpected weight gain, swollen neck, tiredness and fatigue. 
  • Goitre: Goitre is the most common health risk caused by iodine deficiency. It causes the swelling of thyroid gland and it causes movement of lump while speaking and results in dysphagia. 
  • Delayed Physical and Sexual Growth: In children and adolescents delayed physical and sexual growth is very common due to iodine deficiency. In order to ensure timely growth and development we need to provide iodine rich diets. 
  • Intellectual Disorders: Iodine deficiency affects brain development in prenatal, newborn, child and adolescent. In case of severe deficiency, it may lead to irreversible mental retardation.
  • Pregnant Women:  Deficiency of iodine can cause several complications like miscarriages, pre-date born, stillbirths, congenital anomalies, Increased perinatal morbidity and mortality and endemic cretinism.

Tests for Iodine Deficiency

There are several tests available for the diagnosis of iodine deficiency in our body.  Some tests can be done as quickly as 5-10 minutes while some may take more than 24 hours. In general, we don’t need to do any preparations for the test but in case you are on iodine supplements you need to stop before the test (4). 

  • Urine Test: Urine test is used to get the quick iodine concentration in the body. It can be performed within 5-10 mins, but it results may not be accurate.  
  • Blood Test: Blood test for iodine is more accurate than the urine test. However, it takes longer duration than urine test.
  • Iodine Patch Test: It’s a 24-hour test, in which the doctor put an iodine patch on the patient body and review it after 24 hours. The colour of the patch after 24 hours depends upon the concentration of iodine in the body.
  • Iodine Loading Test: This test measures the total amount of iodine excreted through urine within 24 hours. It may take more than 24 hours to reflect iodine concentration in our body. 

Remedies of Iodine Deficiency 

  • Iodine Supplements: If you are diagnosed with severe Iodine deficiency, you should consider medical supplements under supervision of doctors. As higher Iodine may lead to deadly health condition, like stone and artery calcification.
  • Iodine Rich Diet: Iodine rich food items will help in minimising the Iodine deficiency. Some of the Iodine rich food items are like meat, sea fish, seaweed, shrimp, fish, cod, milk, dairy products, whole grain.
  • Fortified Food Items: Several agricultural lands across the globe are poor in micronutrients which will serve nutrient deficient food produces. Fortified seeds will help in providing nutrient rich agriculture produce.

Prevention of Iodine Deficiency

It is often said that “Prevention is better than Cure” and indeed this is very much true with reference to micronutrient deficiencies. Iodine deficiency can be prevented through consumption of Iodine rich diet.

Food items rich in Iodine:

  • Meat
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Lobster
  • Sardines
  • Seaweed
  • Shrimp
  • Fish
  • Cod
  • Milk
  • Dairy products
  • Cheese
  • Cereals
  • Green Leafy veggies
  • Mushroom
  • Fortified food items

Adequate Intake (>19 yrs.):

Simple way to prevent Iodine deficiencies is to maintain recommended daily intakes. The recommended daily intake of Iodine for an adult is 150 mcg.


Iodine is very important trace minerals for maintaining cognitive and hormonal health. It also controls the timely growth and development of prenatal, infants, children and adolescents. It also helps in conceiving and affects the time of delivery.  

Although Iodine deficiency has several ill effects, it can be treated with the right consultation and medical supplements as prescribed by medical experts. The best possible way to avoid these complications by consuming adequate amount of Iodine as per RDA through various Iodine rich diet.