Selenium deficiency - Causes and symptoms

Selenium deficiency and symptoms

Selenium deficiency, though uncommon, can occur under specific situations.

People dependent on food products grown on soils with selenium deficiency, old people with impaired food absorption, those who have undergone gastrointestinal bypass surgery, patients under total parenteral nutrition and patients with severely impaired intestinal absorption are prone to develop selenium insufficiency.

Causes of selenium deficiency

Dependence on food grown on poor selenium soils:
The availability of selenium in nutrition depends upon its presence in the soil.
Plants take it up from soil and animals feeding on the plants get their requirements fulfilled.
However soils in different regions of the world have different amount of its presence with many regions having adequate or higher concentrations.
However certain regions (especially in China and Russia) have very low availability in soil.
Plants and animals in these regions suffer inadequacy of this trace mineral.
People living in these regions who source their food requirements from local produce tend to develop insufficiency of selenium and related health complications.

Low selenium due to old age malabsorption:
As people grow old their food absorption capacity diminishes.
Further they tend to neglect timely meals and the food may not be balanced for their special requirements.
In such situations they can develop nutritional inadequacy of selenium.

Selenium deficiency in patients with severely impaired intestinal function and under TPN:
Patients suffering from severe diseases of intestines like
Crohn's disease, celiac disease, intestinal TB and ulcerative colitis have their intestinal absorption highly compromised.
With impaired absorption they tend to get undernourished with selenium.
In such situation they are put on total parenteral nutrition (TPN) and if the parenteral fluids are not properly supplemented, they develop insufficiency and further health problems.

Selenium inadequacy in patients who have undergoing gastrointestinal bypass surgeries:
As gastrointestinal bypass surgeries result in reduction in absorption area in the intestinal canal, unless the patients are sufficiently and properly supplemented with vitamin and essential minerals, they can develop health problems.

Signs and symptoms of deficiency of selenium

  • Fatigue
  • Symptoms of muscle weakness
  • Muscular pain
  • Muscular inflammation
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Keshan disease
  • Enlargement of heart
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Kashin-Beck's disease
  • Joint pain
  • Symptoms of swollen joints
  • Cretinism
  • Mental retardation
  • Growth retardation
  • Red blood cell fragility
  • Cataract formation
  • Macular degeneration
  • Pancreas degeneration
  • Symptoms of reproductive disorders
  • Miscarriage
  • Hair and skin discoloration

Diseases related to selenium deficiency

Keshan Disease
Dietary absence causes Keshan Disease with symptoms of enlarged heart.
Keshan disease is congestive cardiomyopathy and if untreated this disease can be fatal.
Keshan disease shows symptoms like pulmonary edema and can cause heart failure.

Kashin-Beck disease
Kashin-Beck disease or Kashin-Bek disease (KBD) believed to be caused by selenium inadequacy.
Kashin-Beck's disease
Kashin-Beck disease is an osteoarticular disease and involves growth of joint cartilage.
Affected persons suffer and show symptoms of joint destruction and enlargement, restricting their movement.

Myxedematous Endemic Cretinism
Myxedematous Endemic Cretinism is a type of hypothyroidism.
The affected persons develop and show symptoms of edema on the face and also growth and mental retardation.

Effects of deficiency of selenium

  • Breakdown of antioxidant activities
  • Lowered immunity
  • Increase in autoimmunity
  • Onset of rheumatism and arthritis
  • Body's increased susceptibility to viral diseases
  • Increase in affliction by coxsackievirus, flue and herpes
  • Increase in the progress of HIV/AIDS
  • Higher incidence of cancers
  • Increase in progress of cancers
  • Hypothyroidism related diseases
  • Increased risk of birth defects
  • Onset of mental retardation and dementia
All these problems of selenium deficiency can be overcome with early diagnosis and administration of supplements under medical advice.
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