Slideshows Images Quizzes

Iodine

font size


What other names is Iodine known by?

Atomic number 53, Cadexomer Iodine, Diatomic Iodine, I2, Iode, Iode de Cadexomer, Iode Diatomique, Iode Moléculaire, Iode Mono-atomique, Iode de Povidone, Iode de Sodium, Iodide, Iodized Salt, Iodure, Iodure de Potassium, Iodure de Potassium en Solution Saturée, Iodure de Sodium, KI, Lugol's Solution, Molecular Iodine, Monoatomic Iodine, Numéro atomique 53, Periodate de Sodium, Potassium Iodide, Povidone Iodine, Saturated Solution Potassium Iodide, Sel Iodé, Sodium Iodide, Sodium Iodine, Sodium Periodate, Solution de Lugol, SSKI, Yodo.

What is Iodine?

Iodine is a chemical element. The body needs iodine but cannot make it. The iodine needed by the body must come from the diet. As a rule, there is very little iodine in food, unless it has been added during processing. Processed food typically contains more iodine due to the addition of iodized salt. Most of the world's iodine is found in the ocean, where it is concentrated by sea life, especially seaweed.

The thyroid gland needs iodine to make hormones. If the thyroid doesn't have enough iodine to do its job, feedback systems in the body cause the thyroid to work harder. This can cause an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which becomes evident as a swollen neck.

Other consequences of not having enough iodine (iodine deficiency) are also serious. Iodine deficiency and the resulting low levels of thyroid hormone can cause women to stop ovulating, leading to infertility. Iodine deficiency can also lead to an autoimmune disease of the thyroid and may increase the risk of getting thyroid cancer. Some researchers think that iodine deficiency might also increase the risk of other cancers such as prostate, breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer.

Iodine deficiency during pregnancy is serious for both the mother and the baby. It can lead to high blood pressure during pregnancy for the mother, and mental retardation for the baby. Iodine plays an important role in development of the central nervous system. In extreme cases, iodine deficiency can lead to cretinism, a disorder that involves severely stunted physical and mental growth.

Iodine deficiency is a common world health problem. The most recognized form of deficiency is goiter. Additionally, across the globe iodine deficiency is thought to be the most common preventable cause of mental retardation. Early in the twentieth century, iodine deficiency was common in the US and Canada, but the addition of iodine to salt has improved public health. The addition of iodine to salt is required in Canada. In the US, iodized salt is not required, but it is widely available. Researchers estimate that iodized salt is used regularly by about half the US population.

Iodine is used to prevent and treat iodine deficiency and its consequences, including goiter and some thyroid disorders. It is also used for treating a skin disease caused by a fungus (cutaneous sporotrichosis); treating fibrocystic breast disease and breast pain (mastalgia); weight loss; preventing breast cancer, eye disease, diabetes, and heart disease and stroke; and as an expectorant. Iodine is also used for serious bacterial diseases called anthrax and syphilis.

Iodine is also used to for radiation emergencies, to protect the thyroid gland against radioactive iodides. Potassium iodide tablets for use in a radiation emergency are available as FDA-approved products (ThyroShield, Iosat) and on the Internet as food supplements. Potassium iodide should only be used in a radiation emergency, not in advance of an emergency to prevent sickness.

Iodine is applied to the skin for skin inflammation (dermatitis) and other skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis, to kill germs and heal wounds, to prevent soreness inside the mouth or along the digestive tract (mucositis), and treat diabetic and other external ulcers. Iodine is also applied inside the mouth to treat gum disease (periodontitis) and reduce bleeding after the removal of a tooth. Iodine can also be used as a throat rinse to reduce symptoms of pneumonia.

Iodine is used in the eyes to reduce swelling in infants and to prevent vision loss in patients with ulcers of the cornea.

Iodine is used in the vagina to prevent post-Cesarean swelling of the lining of the uterus.

Iodine is injected into a portion of the pelvis to treat a condition called chyluria.

Iodine is also used for water purification.

Likely Effective for...

  • Iodine deficiency. Taking iodine supplements, including iodized salt, is effective for preventing and treating iodine deficiencies.
  • Radiation exposure. Taking iodine by mouth is effective for protecting against exposure to radioactive iodides in a radiation emergency. However, it should not be used for general protection against radiation.
  • Thyroid conditions. Taking iodine by mouth can improve thyroid storm and lumps on the thyroid called thyroid nodules.
  • Leg ulcers. Applying iodine in the form of cadexomer iodine or povidone-iodine to venous leg ulcers along with compression therapy seems help heal leg ulcers and reduce the chance of a future infection.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Conjunctivitis (pinkeye). Research suggests that using eye drops containing iodine in the form of povidone-iodine is more effective than silver nitrate for decreasing the risk of pinkeye in newborns. However, it is not more effective than the medications erythromycin or chloramphenicol.
  • Foot ulcers in diabetes. Applying iodine to foot ulcers might be beneficial for people with foot ulcers related to diabetes.
  • Inflammation of the uterus (endometritis). Washing the vagina with a solution containing iodine in the form of povidone-iodine before a Cesarean delivery reduces the risk of the inflammation of the uterus.
  • Painful fibrous breast tissue (fibrocystic breast disease). Research shows that taking iodine, especially molecular iodine, reduces painful fibrous breast tissue.
  • Breast pain (mastalgia). Taking 3000-6000 mg of molecular iodine for 5 months seems to reduce pain and tenderness in women with breast pain related to their menstrual cycle. However, taking lower doses of 1500 mg daily doesn't seem to work.
  • Soreness and swelling inside the mouth. Applying iodine to the skin seems to prevent soreness and swelling inside the mouth caused by chemotherapy.
  • Gum infection (periodontitis). Research suggests that rinsing with a solution containing iodine in the form of povidone-iodine during non-surgical treatments for gum infections can help reduce the depth of infected gum pockets.
  • Surgery. Some research suggests that applying iodine in the form of povidone-iodine before or during surgery reduces the risk of infections. However, conflicting results exist. Also, povidone-iodine seems to be less effective than chlorhexidine at preventing infections at the surgical site when used before surgery.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Catheter-related infection. Some evidence suggests that applying povidone-iodine reduces the risk of blood stream infections for people with hemodialysis catheters. However, most research suggests that applying povidone-iodine where a catheter is inserted does not reduce the risk of infection associated with using other types of catheters.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Bleeding.Early research suggests that washing the tooth socket with a rinse containing iodine in the form of povidone-iodine stops bleeding in more patients after having a tooth pulled compared to saline.
  • Chyle in the urine (chyluria). Chyluria is a condition in which chyle is present in the urine stream. This causes the urine to appear milky white. Early research suggests that injecting iodine in the form of povidine-iodine into a particular region of the pelvis helps treat and prevent the recurrence of chyluria.
  • Eye infection (corneal ulceration). Early research suggests that using eye drops containing iodine in the form of povidone-iodine along with antibiotic therapy does not improve vision in people with corneal ulcers better than using antibiotics alone.
  • Fungal skin condition (Cutaneous sporotrichosis). Saturated solution of potassium iodide is commonly used for cutaneous sporotrichosis. There are reports that taking potassium iodide by mouth alone or with another antifungal treatment is effective for most people with cutaneous sporotrichosis.
  • Pneumonia. Early research suggests that rinsing the throat with iodine in the form of povidone-iodine decreases the risk of pneumonia in people with severe head trauma who are using a ventilator.
  • Wound healing. There is some interest in using iodine agents to promote wound healing. While there is some evidence that applying iodine to wounds is more effective than non-antiseptic dressings in reducing wound size, iodine seems to be less effective than antibiotics.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of iodine for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


Therapeutic Research Faculty copyright

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.


Women's Health

Find out what women really need.

Use Pill Finder Find it Now See Interactions

Pill Identifier on RxList

  • quick, easy,
    pill identification

Find a Local Pharmacy

  • including 24 hour, pharmacies

Interaction Checker

  • Check potential drug interactions
Search the Medical Dictionary for Health Definitions & Medical Abbreviations

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors