Iodine Deficiency Medication

Updated: Jul 15, 2018
  • Author: Stephanie L Lee, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Medication Summary

The goals of pharmacotherapy are to reduce morbidity and to prevent complications. Medications used in iodine deficiency include antithyroid agents (potassium iodide) and thyroid products (levothyroxine).


Antithyroid Agents

Class Summary

Iodine deficiency has been treated at a population level by several methods, including voluntary use of iodized salt, iodine supplementation in bread and water, and oral/intramuscular administration of iodized oil. The simplest and least expensive treatment is to have the patient purchase and use iodized salt.

Potassium iodide (SSKI)

Potassium iodide is an option in industrialized counties. Absorption from the gastrointestinal tract is rapid and complete. The skin and lungs also can absorb iodine. Iodine equilibrates in extracellular fluids and is specifically concentrated by the thyroid gland.


Thyroid Products

Class Summary

Thyroid hormone, L-thyroxine, may be used to treat iodine deficiency, because the chemical content of iodine is approximately 60% by weight.

Levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levothroid, Levoxyl)

Levothyroxine (L-T4) is generally effective in treating iodine deficiency. It is a considerably more expensive preparation than other forms of iodine (eg, iodized salt), especially when its cost is combined with the added expense of measuring TSH levels to assure that the supplemental L-T4 has not resulted in iatrogenic hyperthyroidism.

Alternatively, thyroid hormone therapy has been used with caution to shrink the goiter of iodine deficiency. An L-T4 dose is chosen that maintains the TSH in the lower part of the reference range. TSH levels should be monitored carefully to avoid thyrotoxicosis due to autonomous nodules in the iodine deficiency goiter.