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Iodine Deficiency Can Cause Cretinism - Prevent Cretinism From Happening to Your Child

Cretinism, for those who may not be fully aware of it, expresses itself insidiously to a child. Some parents may not be able to see the signs easily in their children. However, if detected and treated promptly, you can stop cretinism in its tracks and give your child a better chance at a happier life.

What is Cretinism?

Cretinism is a condition caused by severe hypothyroidism during the life of the fetus, baby, and childhood. Characteristics of cretinism include severe body growth and mental deterioration. Hypothyroidism in the most critical stages of development is very bad for the central nervous system. Severe hypothyroidism in the fetus or baby can cause mental retardation, one of the most debilitating effects of cretinism. However, early recognition of the signs of hypothyroidism may prevent more permanent features of chronicity.

What causes Cretinism?

Cretinism can be caused by congenital thyroid gland deficiency. This condition is also known as congenital cretinism. It may also be due to the inability of the thyroid gland to produce sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone for the development of children due to the genetic defect of the thyroid itself.

The main cause of cretinism is iodine deficiency in the diet. This type of cretinism is called endemic cretinism. Unlike congenital cretinism, the severity of endemic cretinism varies according to the amount of iodine in the diet. In some places where iodine is deficient and iodine sources are rare, the entire population has been noted to have a tendency to cretinism.

Iodine, Thyroid Function, and Cretinism

The mechanism for the effect of thyroid hormone on human development remains unclear. However, it has been noted that severe thyroid hormone deficiency in the fetal and infant development stages largely damages the development of the central nervous system.

Iodine is a trace mineral required for normal function of the thyroid gland. The small amount of iodine circulating in the bloodstream is trapped by the thyroid gland to produce two hormones that control most of the body's metabolic rate.

With deficiency in either iodine or thyroid hormone, children develop hypothyroidism and in severe cases, cretinism. Mental and bone growth are much slower than soft tissue growth. If the child or baby is not diagnosed within a few weeks, the mental delay becomes permanent.

Detecting Hypothyroidism in Children

Newborns may still be present as a result of the presence of the mother thyroid hormone in their body. However, a few weeks after birth, the baby's movements may slow down and physical and mental growth begin to diminish. Babies can also sleep for longer and cry less than most. Some parents may think that such behavior in their baby means that they have a well-behaved baby. It is best to be careful and see a doctor immediately.

Babies identified as hypothyroid may be treated with either iodine if they develop early stages of endemic cretinism or thyroxine if their thyroid gland is damaged, absent or unable to produce the required amount of thyroid hormone. Treatment at any time usually results in normal physical growth but after a few weeks, mental poisoning may have remained despite treatment.

Endemic cretinism can be avoided if the mother eats a large amount of iodine. In some developed countries, endemic cretinism has been eliminated by correcting iodine deficiencies in expecting mothers and their children. However, some cases of hypothyroidism still appear every now and then. As a result, many countries now publish newborns for hypothyroidism to recognize the full syndrome before it's too late.


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