Selenium deficiency is thought to contribute to autoimmune disease by making the body more susceptible to nutritional and biochemical stresses as well as infectious diseases. Three diseases caused directly by selenium deficiency include Keshan Disease, which causes an enlarged heart, Kashin-Beck Disease, which causes osteoarthropathy, and Myxedematous Endemic Cretinism, a form of hypothyroidism which results in mental retardation.
Signs and Symptoms of Selenium Deficiency
• Lack of mental dexterity
However, there are diseases that can be caused by this deficiency as well and they include Keshan disease and Kashin-Beck disease.
Keshan disease is viral disease and mostly affects children. It is caused by a deficient amount of selenium present in the body. The main symptom of this condition is myocardial necrosis, which leads to the weakening of the heart and a general weakness of the heart muscle. Keshan disease can also make a person much more susceptible to developing other illnesses.
Kashin-Beck disease occurs when the body is deficient of both selenium and iodine. The symptoms this can then present include the degeneration of cartilage.
So, what exactly causes a selenium deficiency in the first place? Eating food that is grown in soil lacking this nutrient is thought to be the primary cause. Also, people suffering from intestinal disorders that make the absorption of selenium next to impossible are at an elevated risk for developing this deficiency.
Treatment usually consists of taking selenium supplements until the body's levels have returned to normal. However, supplements may always be necessary if absorption is a problem.