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Selenium deficiency is rare in people in the United States. However, selenium deficiency may occur when a person is fed through a vein (IV line) for long periods of time.
Keshan disease is caused by a lack of selenium. This leads to an abnormality of the heart muscle. Keshan disease caused many childhood deaths in China until the link to selenium was discovered and selenium supplements were provided.
Two other diseases have been linked to selenium deficiency:
Severe gastrointestinal disorders may also affect the body's ability to absorb selenium.
Too much selenium in the blood can cause a condition called selenosis. Selenosis can cause hair loss, nail problems, nausea, irritability, fatigue, and mild nerve damage. However, selenium toxicity is rare in the United States.
Escott-Stump S, ed. Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008.
Sarubin Fragaakis A, Thomson C. The Health Professional's Guide to Popular Dietary Supplements. 3rd ed. Chicago, Il: American Dietetic Association; 2007.
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000.
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