The role of iodine in humans and iodine deficiency diseases


According to the Clinical Recommendations for Iodine Deficiency Diseases and Conditions, there are no territories in Russia where the population is not at risk of iodine deficiency diseases (IDD). Iodine consumption in Russia is much lower than the recommended – 45-50 µg per day, while the daily requirement for an adult is 150 μg. Why is iodine so important and what can its deficiency lead to? Let’s try to figure it out.

  1. The role of iodine in humans.

Iodine is one of the most important trace elements without which human body cannot function properly. It is part of the thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T 4) and triiodothyronine (T 3), which play a large role in the body’s metabolic processes as well as have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system (CNS).

In addition, thyroid hormones are extremely important for the laying and maturation of the brain as well as the formation of intelligence in the fetus, so adequate iodine intake is vital for pregnant to women.

  1. Iodine deficient diseases.

Iodine deficiency diseases is a term that combines conditions and disorders caused by iodine deficiency (WHO, 2007). Not only are the thyroid pathology developed because of iodine deficiency, but also pathological conditions due to thyroid hormone deficiency.

Insufficiency of iodine intake leads to the deployment of a chain of sequential adaptation processes aimed at maintaining normal synthesis and secretion of thyroid hormones.

But, if iodine deficiency persists long enough, there is a breakdown of adaptation mechanisms followed by the development of IDD, which include:

  • Goiter and its complications.
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cognitive dysfunction

The goiter is externally manifested by a significant progressive increase in the thyroid gland resulting in bouts of asphyxiation or dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), due to the delivery of the trachea or esophagus, respectively.

As for clinical manifestations of hypothyroidism (diseases due to thyroid hormone deficiency), these include pronounced puffiness, trophic skin disorders, reduction blood pressure, et al. The most persistent symptoms on the part of CNS are lethargy, apathy, drowsiness, diminished intelligence.


  1. Prevention and treatment of iodine deficiency diseases.

Prevention is primarily the consumption of products — natural sources of iodine: marine products, as well as milk, eggs, meat, cereals, vegetables, but taking into account that the preparation of products was not done on iodine deficient soils.

Treatment of IDD is prescribed by an endocrinologist and can begin with potassium iodide drugs or multivitamins containing physiological doses of iodine.



  1. General Pathological Physiology: Textbook, Rec. UMO in medical and pharmacy, education of universities in Russia for medical students/V. A. Frolov [et al.]; under common ed. Frolov, D. P. Bilibin. – M.: Higher Education and Science, 2009. – 554 p.
  2. Troshina Ekaterina Anatolyevna, Platonova N. M. Iodine metabolism and prevention of iodine deficiency diseases in children and adolescents//GSP. 2008, №3.