8 Warning Signs & Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency

No matter our BMI, if our levels of zinc in the body are low, we can experience a lot of unpleasant symptoms. [1]

Zinc is a trace mineral which the body uses to fight against infections and for the production of cells. It also participates in several other important processes.

Long-term exposure to low levels can trigger signs like low alertness, loss of hair, and a decreased sense of smell and taste. [2]

Our guide will therefore help you learn:

  • The importance of zinc
  • How to recognize the symptoms
  • The most common indicators

What’s more, a zinc deficiency doesn’t allow the body to produce new and healthy cells which can consequently lead to weight loss, wounds that don’t heal, reduced appetite, diarrhea, and open skin sores. [3]

Zinc can be acquired through specific foods in which it’s either present naturally or added, as well as in supplements.

To be able to recognize low levels of this mineral, we need to recognize the early tell-tale signs. Check out the major ones below and learn more about why they’re happening and how to respond.

Warning Signs & Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency

1. Reduced sense of taste and smell

Zinc is a mineral which participates in the regulation in most of our senses, including those of smell and taste.

This is why if a person’s levels of zinc are lower than the needed ones; they may experience difficulty tasting and smelling their food. [4]

  • Zinc deficiency may affect your taste & smell
  • Zinc regulates most of our senses
  • Oral zinc meds may be of aid

According to research, oral zinc meds to people with taste disorders helped better their symptoms by stimulating the area of the brain which manages our consumption of food.

This is one of the symptoms that are more common in older adults who are already at a higher risk of a deficiency and may already be taking meds that influence their taste, according to a research from 2016.

2. Worsened vision

Did you know that our eyes contain high amounts of zinc, especially in the retina area?

This high presence of zinc participates in and enables the transportation of vitamin A from our liver to the retina in order to make protective pigments in the eyes.

  • Zinc is crucial for healthy vision
  • Impaired vision is one of the common symptoms
  • Supplements may be necessary in those with higher risk

This being said, zinc plays a pivotal role in maintaining our vision sharp so experiencing vision deterioration may be linked with zinc deficiency. [5]

An impaired vision for example, a poor night vision or cataracts have been associated with this deficiency.

An increased intake of zinc may also be recommendable for people who have a higher risk of AMD or are at the first stages of the condition.

3. Wounds are healing slowly

Taking into account the importance of zinc for the strength of our immunity, a person may become more sensitive to bacterial or viral infections when their levels of zinc drop below the recommended amount.

This decrease will be visible through wounds and cuts and bruises that are healing slowly or slower than they did before. [6]

  • Slow wound healing is one of the symptoms
  • Low zinc slows down the healing processes
  • Zinc is important for the immunity

The answer to why this happens is very simple- it’s because our body needs zinc to repair tissues. [7]

Not having enough of it will therefore result in a slower healing of wounds.

This is why it’s important to consult your physician if you happen to notice this symptom and get checked up for your zinc levels.

4. Your hearing is weaker

Similarly to the symptoms linked with the reduced senses of taste, smell, and vision, a zinc deficiency can also mess up with your hearing. [8]

Namely, in a study with 100 individuals with tinnitus, 12 percent of the participants had low levels of this mineral and the ones who were lacking it had more severe loss of hearing and ringing than the ones who had normal levels. [9]


  • Low zinc may weaken the hearing
  • Zinc supplements may help
  • Zinc helps reduce inflammation in the inner ear

In a different study from 2011, the researchers tried to treat hearing loss in people using zinc supplements. It was discovered that the ones who took the supplements had improvements in their hearing unlike those who were given steroids.

The researchers think that zinc helps because it works like an antioxidant and alleviates the inflammation in the ear’s inner part.

5. Hair fall

Hair fall is one of the symptoms of zinc deficiency, according to the NIH. [10]

Namely, there are reports that have discovered that individuals with alopecia, an autoimmune illness which triggers hair loss on the scalp and on other body parts, had lower levels of zinc.

Zinc is a necessary nutrient for healthy hair growth. It boosts the amount of nutrients in the scalp and also fights off inflammation by neutralizing the free radicals.

  • Zinc influences hair health
  • Low zinc may worsen hair quality
  • Get checked out by a hair professional

At first, this may be manifested through dandruff and a very dry scalp, as well as dry and brittle hair.

In case you suspect that your hair problems have to do with low zinc, consult a hair professional to get checked out.

If the fall is found to be caused by a deficiency, improvement is possible with proper treatment. If the hair root has already been affected, healthy hair production may not be possible.

6. Recurring infections

Recurring infections like UTIs may be linked with low levels of zinc.

No matter your BMI is, zinc deficiency can put you at a higher risk of infectious illnesses. In one study, it was found the serum zinc levels of those with recurrent UTIs were lower than that of the ones from the control group. [11]

  • Recurring infection is one of the symptoms
  • There’s a link between this deficiency & UTIs
  • More research is necessary

This appears to be a result of zinc’s participation in the regulation of the immunity and thus, even a moderate drop can cause problems in the immunity’s functioning.

However, further research is needed to see the effect of supplements on those with recurrent UTIs and find if they can be helpful.

7. Acne

According to one review, zinc has anti-inflammatory power and lowers the secretion of the oil causing acne on the skin. [12]

The study indicates that a zinc deficiency may have to do with the type and severity of the lesions in some patients with acne vulgaris. Moreover, zinc is one of the most studied forms of treatment for acne.

  • Zinc has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Acne may worsen due to low zinc
  • Zinc helps in the fight against bacteria & viruses

In addition to helping in the fight against viruses and bacteria, it’s also of aid in mitigating the irritation and redness common with acne. [13]

Of course, other factors can also cause your acne outbreaks (hormones, birth control, diet, skincare, etc.), but if you feel that it’s none of this, consult your physician or a dermatologist to check out your zinc levels.

In case of a deficiency, they can recommend the appropriate form depending on the severity of the acne, your diet habits, and skin type.

 8. Ulcers on the skin

Pressure ulcers can worsen if a person has severe zinc deficiency.

In one study published in the Journal of Dermatological Sciences from 2019, it was concluded that low levels of this mineral can increase the vascular damages, apoptosis, and oxidative stress, which may be partly a reason for recurrent ulcers. [14]

The researchers point out that supplementation with zinc may be an effective treatment for those with this deficiency who also struggle with pressure ulcers, no matter their BMI.

  • Low zinc may contribute to pressure ulcers
  • It’s necessary for new cell formation
  • Supplements may be helpful

Ulcers are sores on the skin and disintegration of tissues. They’re more common in the lower extremities skin and inside the gastrointestinal tract. They’re painful and swell.

This symptom may also be closely associated with another symptom, i.e. the slow wound healing- the ulcers recur because of the lack of zinc which is crucial for production of new cells and their proper functioning

Final Thoughts

Zinc deficiency is a deficiency that’s manifested through lower levels of this mineral in the body.

We can recognize it through several different symptoms and we therefore discussed some of the most common ones.

The best way to address a potential deficiency is to adhere to the doctor’s therapy and to increase the consumption of foods rich in zinc.

If you struggle with these symptoms, the first step is to consult with your physician and get checked up to rule out other potential reasons behind this deficiency.

  Reference sites: 

  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320393
  3. https://www.verywellhealth.com/zinc-deficiency-201070
  4. https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/food-nutrition-and-diet/zinc-deficiency
  5. https://centerforfamilymedicine.com/nutritional-information/10-signs-and-symptoms-of-zinc-deficiency/
  6. https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/g20734052/zinc-deficiency-symptoms/
  7. https://advancedtissue.com/2014/11/zinc-enhance-wound-healing/
  8. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/zinc
  9. https://elithairtransplant.com/zinc-deficiency-hair-loss/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6708089/
  11. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/zinc-for-acne


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