Cretinism

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Cretinism is a condition of severely stunted physical and mental growth due to untreated congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones (congenital hypothyroidism) due to maternal nutritional deficiency of iodine.

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Etymology and use of cretin

The term cretin is a medical term which describes a person so affected with the condition, but, as with words such as spastic and lunatic, it can also have a vulgar connotation and can be used disparagingly. Cretin became a medical term in the 18th century, from an Alpine French dialect; it saw wide medical use in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and then spread more widely in popular English as a markedly derogatory term for a person who behaves stupidly. Because of its pejorative connotations in popular speech, health-care workers have mostly abandoned cretin.[citation needed]

Other speculative etymologies have been offered:

  • From creta, Latin for chalk, because of the pallor of those affected.
  • From "Crete", where iodine insufficiency (Hypothyroidism) was common prior to the modern era.[1]
  • From cretira, Grisson-Romance creature, from Latin creatus.
  • From cretine, French for alluvium (soil deposited by flowing water), an allusion to the affliction's suspected origin in inadequate soil.[1]
  • From "chretien," French for "Christian" or "Christlike," because those affected were so mentally handicapped that they were considered incapable of sinning [2]

Sporadic cretinism due to congenital hypothyroidism

Congenital hypothyroidism can be endemic, genetic, or sporadic. If untreated, it results in mild to severe impairment of both physical and mental growth and development.

Poor length growth is apparent as early as the first year of life. Adult stature without treatment ranges from 1 to 1.6 metres (3'4 to 5'3), depending on severity, sex and other genetic factors. Bone maturation and puberty are severely delayed. Ovulation is impeded and infertility is common.

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