Iodine deficiency can also contribute to menstrual cycle disorders, pregnancy problems, birth defects, male fertility disorders and children mental retardation or hyperactivity and social problems. It is estimated that over 1.5 billion people in the world suffer from varying degrees of iodine deficiency.
The historically most important consequence of iodine deficiency is endemic goitre and endemic cretinism.
Endemic goitre is unevenly distributed throughout the globe. However, in some areas this disease does not occur at all. They are mainly coastal areas. The rule that the goitre descends from the sea to the inland and to the mountains is still valid. Problems of iodine deficiency have been systematically addressed in our country after the Second World War. Due to the iodine salt iodination, the presence of goitre in children and adolescents has significantly decreased (but has not disappeared completely).
Endemic cretinism is a developmental disorder caused by congenital hypothyroidism, from French “crétin“ (weak-minded). One of the causes may be severe lack of iodine in the mother’s diet, but also insufficient thyroid function of the mother for other reasons. Apart from the usual manifestations of cretinism – small growth and decreased intelligence – typical deafness, muscle stiffness and motoric problems are typical of endemic cretinism.
The disease affects people all over the world. The most effective measure in preventing endemic cretinism is the removal of iodine deficiency. Worldwide elimination of iodine deficiency is an exclamation point and belongs to WHO (World Health Organization), UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund, the world’s largest organization dealing with the protection and improvement of children’s living conditions and the promotion of their all-round development). Iodine deficiency is a serious global problem. Endemic cretinism is irreversible damage to the central nervous system. Unfortunately, its occurrence is still being recorded, especially in developing countries. Yet, an easily accessible prevention is an effective and simple measure to prevent life-threatening disability.