Selenium deficiency

Dr. Anurag Shahi (AIIMS)MBBS,MD

January 05, 2019

March 06, 2020

Selenium deficiency
Selenium deficiency

What is selenium deficiency?

Selenium deficiency refers to the depleted levels of selenium in the body. It is a trace mineral that plays a significant role in the function of the immune system. While deficiency of selenium rarely occurs, it is more common in areas where the soil has low selenium content. This deficiency does not cause any illness by itself, but it makes one more susceptible to other illnesses.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

The most common symptoms of selenium deficiency are associated with certain diseases including:

  • Keshan disease: Myocardial necrosis causing weakening of the heart, cardiac failure, cardiogenic shock and enlarged heart.
  • Kashin-Beck disease: Cartilaginous tissues of the joints undergo breakdown, degeneration and cell death.
  • Myxoedematous endemic cretinism: This occurs among infants born to mothers with deficient selenium and iodine content in the body. The infant shows symptoms of mental retardation.

Other symptoms include:

What are the main causes?

  • The most common cause of selenium deficiency is a low dietary intake of selenium, which occurs when foods are grown in regions that have low selenium content in the soil.
  • Deficiency of selenium may also occur as a result of reduced absorption of selenium due to Crohn’s disease or surgical removal of a part or whole of the stomach.
  • Impaired absorption of selenium is more common among the elderly.
  • Medications like statins and aminoglycosides have the potential to cause selenium deficiency.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis of selenium deficiency is usually made after a detailed history and physical examination.

Your doctor will advise the following investigations:

  • Blood test to measure thyroid stimulating hormone (high levels of this hormone is an indicator of selenium or iodine deficiency).
  • Blood test to measure selenium, glutathione peroxidase and selenoprotein levels.

Treatment of selenium deficiency involves incorporating selenium-rich food items in your diet and taking selenium supplements.

A number of multivitamin tablets also contain selenium.

Selenium-rich food items include:

  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Eggs and dairy products
  • Bread, cereals, oatmeal and other food grains.



  1. Shreenath AP, Dooley J. Selenium Deficiency. [Updated 2019 Jun 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.
  2. American Nutrition Association. What is Selenium. [Internet]
  3. National Institutes of Health; Office of Dietary Supplements. [Internet]. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Selenium Fact Sheet for Consumers.
  4. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Trace Elements: Selenium
  5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Trace Elements: Selenium
  6. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Selenium in diet

Doctors for Selenium deficiency

Dr. Tanmay Bharani Dr. Tanmay Bharani Endocrinology
15 Years of Experience
Dr. Sunil Kumar Mishra Dr. Sunil Kumar Mishra Endocrinology
23 Years of Experience
Dr. Parjeet Kaur Dr. Parjeet Kaur Endocrinology
19 Years of Experience
Dr. M Shafi Kuchay Dr. M Shafi Kuchay Endocrinology
13 Years of Experience
Consult a Doctor

Medicines for Selenium deficiency

Medicines listed below are available for Selenium deficiency. Please note that you should not take any medicines without doctor consultation. Taking any medicine without doctor's consultation can cause serious problems.

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