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What is zinc deficiency?

Zinc is a vital mineral which you obtain from food and dietary supplements. It plays an important role in several functions of the body, like protein and DNA synthesis, growth and development during pregnancy and childhood, proper sense of smell and taste, wound healing and immune function. A regular intake of zinc in an adequate amount is necessary, as there is no storage system for zinc in the body. The reduced intake and availability of zinc in the body is called zinc deficiency.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

The common symptoms of zinc deficiency are:

The rare and severe deficiency symptoms include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of hair
  • Impotence
  • Delayed puberty
  • Skin and eye lesions
  • Hypogonadism in men

Other symptoms like delayed wound healing, weight loss, lethargy and reduced taste sensation may also be associated with zinc deficiency.

What are the main causes?

The main causes of zinc deficiency are:

  • Inadequate intake
  • Improper absorption
  • Increased zinc requirement by the body
  • Increased loss of zinc from the body

The following factors increase the risk of zinc deficiency:

  • Poor dietary intake
  • Alcoholism
  • Gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, tropical sprue which reduces zinc absorption from food
  • Pregnancy and lactation where the need of zinc is increased

How is it diagnosed and treated?

A blood test is used to identify a severe deficiency of zinc by checking the levels of zinc in the blood. Levels of alkaline phosphatase enzyme and albumin also help diagnose zinc deficiency.

Zinc replacement is the mainstay of treatment in zinc deficiency. The dose of zinc supplement varies depending on the underlying cause.

The skin lesions produced due to zinc deficiency cannot be treated using a moisturiser and topical steroids.

Increasing the dietary intake of zinc can also be helpful in the management of the condition. Foods like oysters, red meat, poultry, nuts, beans, whole grains and dairy products contain an adequate amount of zinc to meet the requirements of the body.


  1. Medicines for Zinc Deficiency
  2. Doctors for Zinc Deficiency
Dr. Tanmay Bharani

Dr. Tanmay Bharani

एंडोक्राइन ग्रंथियों और होर्मोनेस सम्बन्धी विज्ञान

Dr. Sunil Kumar Mishra

Dr. Sunil Kumar Mishra

एंडोक्राइन ग्रंथियों और होर्मोनेस सम्बन्धी विज्ञान

Dr. Parjeet Kaur

Dr. Parjeet Kaur

एंडोक्राइन ग्रंथियों और होर्मोनेस सम्बन्धी विज्ञान


  1. National Institutes of Health; Office of Dietary Supplements. [Internet]. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Zinc.
  2. Ananda S Prasad. Zinc deficiency. BMJ. 2003 Feb 22; 326(7386): 409–410. PMID: 12595353
  3. Australasian College of Dermatologists. Zinc Deficiency and the Skin. [Internet]
  4. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Zinc
  5. healthdirect Australia. Zinc. Australian government: Department of Health
  6. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. NUTRIENTS AND HEALTH BENEFITS. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release [Internet]
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