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(krē`tənĭz'əm), condition produced in infants and children due to lack of thyroid hormone. It usually results from a congenital defect (e.g., absence of the thyroid, presence of only a rudimentary gland, inability of the gland to produce thyroxine). However, it can develop later if there is a lack of iodine in the diet, or if the thyroid is diseased or surgically removed. Cretinism causes very serious retardation of physical and mental development; if the condition is left untreated, growth is stunted and the physical stature attained is that of a dwarf. In addition, the skin is thick, flabby, and waxy in color, the nose is flattened, the abdomen protrudes, and there is a general slowness of movement and speech. If discovered early enough and treated with thyroid extract and sufficient iodine intake throughout life, growth may become normal and mental facility greatly improved. If the condition commences after adulthood is reached it is called myxedemamyxedema
, condition associated with severe hypothyroidism and lack of thyroid hormone in the adult. In the child it is known as cretinism. Symptoms include a dry swelling of the skin, slowed speech and mental awareness, deepened voice, intolerance to cold, fatigue and weakness,
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a disease marked by arrested physical and mental development and thyroid dysfunction.

Cretinism may occur in the form of endemics (endemic cretinism) or individual outbreaks (sporadic cretinism). It is prevalent mostly in mountainous areas, such as the Alps, Pyrenees, Himalayas, and Cordilleras (South America); there is no exact information about the spread of cretinism in Africa. In prerevolutionary Russia, cretinism occurred in the Caucasus, the Urals, Byelorussia, and the Carpathians. During the years of Soviet power as a result of treatment and preventive measures the number of cretins decreased sharply.

Cretinism is caused by a natural (exogenous) deficiency of iodine in water and food or by an endogenous deficiency of the element. The average height of adult cretins is 146.7 cm for males and 140 cm for females. They have short limbs, curved legs, wide hands with short fingers, a round skull, a puffy face with a low forehead, a saddle-shaped nose, deep eye sockets, large ears, a wide tongue too large for the mouth, short sparse teeth, pale dry skin, and little hair. Umbilical and inguinal hernias and enlargement of the thyroid are common. The genitalia are underdeveloped. Metabolism is greatly impaired; the body temperature is low. Poor hearing (often deaf-mutism) is marked and permanent. Mental retardation in pronounced cretinism is at the level of idiocy. Cretins are slow-moving, sleepy, and halting of speech. The acquisition of knowledge and work skills is a difficult and time-consuming process.

Treatment involves the administration of drugs that compensate for the thyroid deficiency (thyroidin or triiodothyronine). If therapy is started in early childhood, cretins can learn how to take care of themselves and do simple repetitive work. Prevention requires the iodination of water and food.



A type of dwarfism caused by hypothyroidism and associated with generalized body changes, including mental deficiency.
References in periodicals archive ?
Table 5: Worldwide Iodine Deficiency Iodine Deficiency None Mild Moderate Severe Median urine iodine, >100 50-99 20-49 <20 mcg/ Liter of spot urine Goiter prevalence <5% 5-20% 20-30% >30% Neonatal TSH >5 IU/ <3% 3-20% 20-40% >40% ml Whole blood Cretinism 0 0 + + Adapted from the world health organization (WHO)/United Nations Child ren Fund (UNICEF) International Council for control of led ne Defecienc y (ICCIDD).
When goiter prevalence is severe or exceeds 30% in a given area, cretinism may affect up to 5 to 15% of the population.
He made the following observations: * Goiter and cretinism are rare in localities which are rich in iodine.
It is estimated that each year, IDD in pregnant women from Albania to Zaire is responsible for at least 6O,000 miscarriages or stillbirths, and over 12O,000 cases of cretinism.
Jiri Hajek, who, as referred to above, used to be Alexander Dubcek's Foreign Minister, served five years in a camp under the Nazis and has every right to be unimpressed by the relative cretinism of the Czechoslovak quislings of today.
They said serious iodine deficiency during pregnancy can result in stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, and congenital abnormalities such as cretinism, a grave, irreversible form of mental retardation that affects people living in iodine-deficient areas.
Cyanide is a highly toxic element and has been implicated as a causative agent in certain diseases such as Leber's optical atrophy, tobacco amblyopia, Tropical Ataxic Neuropathy [TAN], endemic goiter and cretinism syndrome [12].
Iodine supplementation and the prevention of cretinism.
Deficiency of dietary iodine causes a spectrum of disorders including goiter, hypothyroidism, mental retardation, cretinism, and varying degrees of other growth and developmental abnormalities.
Editor's Note: The linking of iodine deficiency to goiter, cretinism, and endemic low IQ was one of the great American medical discoveries of the 20th century.
The common causes of Macroglossia in children Down Syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Amyloidosis, Sandhoff's disease, Cretinism, Hemangioma, Congenital Hypothyroidism, Lymphangioma, Myxedema, Pompe disease.
Iodine deficiency disorders, like mental retardation, cretinism and other mental and physical impairment can easily be prevented through the use of iodized salt.