What is the role of iodine in hypothyroidism?

Updated: Nov 05, 2019
  • Author: Philip R Orlander, MD; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Answer

Worldwide, iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Excess iodine, as in radiocontrast dyes, amiodarone, health tonics (herbal and dietary supplements), and seaweed, can transiently inhibit iodide organification and thyroid hormone synthesis (the Wolff-Chiakoff effect). Most healthy individuals have a physiologic escape from this effect. In patients with iodine overload, the sodium-iodide symporter shuts down, and this allows intracellular iodine levels to drop and hormone secretion to resume.

The Wolff-Chiakoff effect is short-lived because the sodium-iodide symporter is capable of rapidly downregulation. However, exposure to excess iodine can produce more profound and sustained hypothyroidism in individuals with abnormal thyroid glands (eg, from autoimmune thyroiditis, subtotal thyroidectomy, or prior radioiodine therapy). [21]


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