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Iodine Deficiency - Overview

Iodine is normally found in human body in a form of hormones T3 and T4 produced by the thyroid gland. Iodine is obtained from certain foods and utilized in the process of hormone production. In case there is an insufficient amount of iodine in the body the thyroid gland is simply not able to produce adequate amount of hormones and a person develops hypothyroidism and accompanying symptoms and signs. Insufficient amount of iodine in the body is also related to one more condition called goiter, a condition in which the thyroid gland significantly enlarges and may even cause breathing and swallowing difficulties.

Treatment for Iodine Deficiency

Iodine deficiency usually features with dry skin, unexplained weight gain, mental confusion, hoarse voice etc. It is essential to diagnose condition on time especially in children in whom iodine deficiency can cause serious developmental problems. Iodine deficiency in pregnant women may affect both, the mother and the baby.

The first thing to do is to plan suitable diet. Patients suffering from iodine deficiency must strict to long term iodine replacement programs. These programs are most important for children and pregnant women. The optimal levels of iodine can be achieved with intake of food rich in iodine. For example iodine can be taken in a form of iodized salts, milk, eggs, yolks and saltwater fish. The recommended daily doses of iodine are 150 micro grams for men while pregnant women require more iodine (220-290 micrograms per day).

In case iodine deficiency leads to significant enlargement of the thyroid gland which subsequently affects breathing or swallowing patients may be treated surgically.

Thyroid hormones are one more option for treatment of iodine deficiency. This treatment modality is much more expensive comparing to a simple increase in iodine intake with certain foods. However, hormonal therapy is a cornerstone of hypothyroidism. In hypothyroidism the level of thyroid hormones simply cannot be achieved with proper intake of iodine. This is why patients suffering from hypothyroidism require lifelong hormone replacement therapy.

In many countries the problem of iodine deficiency is successfully dealt with enrichment of certain products (for example salt and other products) with iodine.

Some studies have revealed connection between iodine deficiency and certain cancers. Namely the data from these researches point to possibility of iodine deficiency to cause breast cancer and gastric cancer. In case of breast cancer iodine deficiency can lead to breast atypia and it increases incidence of malignancy in animal models. Iodine treatment can, on the other side, reverse breast dysplasia. And finally, several more studies have found connection between iodine deficiency, iodine-deficient goiter and gastric cancer.

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