▪ Abstract 

Severe iodine deficiency was the main cause of endemic goiter and cretinism. Most of the previously iodine-deficient areas are now supplemented, mainly with iodized salt. The geographical distribution of severe endemic areas has been progressively reduced, and at present, approximately 200 million people living in remote places are still at risk of severe iodine deficiency. International public health programs should be focused first on reaching these populations, and second on auditing and monitoring the operational work of supplementation programs. This second point is essential to prevent iodine-induced hyperthyroidism or interruptions of iodine supplement distribution, which could be catastrophic for the fetus and the young infant. Echography brings a complementary tool to clinical assessment of goiter by palpation. Inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry brings at least a definitive gold standard for iodine measurement and thyroid hormone measurement. Thiocyanate overload has been clearly documented as a goitrogen in Central Africa, and when associated with selenium deficiency, it may be included as risk factor for endemic myxedematous cretinism. Variable exposure to different environmental risk factors is likely the explanation of the variable distribution of two types of endemic cretinism (neurological and myxedematous), and the clinical overlap of the pathogeny of both syndromes is more important than previously described. It is possible that Kashin-Beck osteoarthropathy is another evanescent endemic disease that will disappear with the correction of iodine deficiency.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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