Difference Between Dwarfism and Cretinism

There is always a confusion between humans those are dwarfs and humans those are cretins. Well, cretinism and dwarfism are two conditions resulting from deficiency and medical disorder. While Dwarfism is the state of being dwarf, cretinism is the condition of dwarfism showing signs of mental retardation. Let us talk more about the two conditions:

What is Dwarfism?

Dwarfism is a medical condition characterized by significantly shorter stature than average for an individual’s age and sex. It is medically defined as having an adult height of less than 4 feet 10 inches (147 centimeters). Dwarfism can be caused by factors such as genetic mutations, hormonal imbalances, skeletal dysplasias, or disruptions in the normal process of bone growth and development.

Photo: Beautiful Ladies With Dwarfism

Types of dwarfism

  • Achondroplasia: This is the most common type of dwarfism and is caused by a genetic mutation affecting bone growth. People with achondroplasia have short stature with disproportionately short limbs and a normal-sized torso.
  • Hypochondroplasia: Similar to achondroplasia but milder in severity, hypochondroplasia also affects bone growth and results in short stature with short limbs.
  • Diastrophic Dysplasia: This is characterized by skeletal abnormalities affecting the limbs, spine, and joints, leading to short stature and joint deformities.
  • Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia: This type affects bone development in the spine and long bones, resulting in short stature with a disproportionately short trunk and neck.
  • Primordial Dwarfism: This is a group of extremely rare types of dwarfism characterized by severe growth deficiency from infancy, resulting in very small stature and proportionate body parts.

What Is Cretinism?

Cretinism, also known as congenital hypothyroidism, is a condition that occurs due to inadequate thyroid hormone production from birth or shortly thereafter. Thyroid hormones are essential for normal growth and development, including brain development. When there is a deficiency of thyroid hormones during fetal development or early infancy, it can lead to cretinism.

Generally, Cretinism is caused by abnormalities in the thyroid gland like congenital absence of the thyroid gland, thyroid dysgenesis, or defects in thyroid hormone synthesis. These abnormalities may be genetic in nature or can result from factors such as maternal iodine deficiency during pregnancy.

The lack of thyroid hormones affects many aspects of development and this can result in the following symptoms and physical characteristics:

  • Severe growth retardation: Children with cretinism usually have significant stunted growth, resulting in short stature.
  • Delayed bone development: The deficiency of thyroid hormones can lead to delays in bone maturation and skeletal development.
  • Coarse facial features: Children with cretinism may have characteristic facial features like a broad nose, puffy eyelids, thick lips, and a protruding tongue.
  • Intellectual disability: Usually children with cretinism experience intellectual disability and developmental delays.
  • Hypotonia (poor muscle tone): Children may exhibit decreased muscle tone, which can affect motor development and coordination.
  • Umbilical hernia: Some infants with cretinism may have an umbilical hernia, where part of the intestine protrudes through the abdominal wall near the belly button.

Dwarfism vs Cretinism: Key Differences

CharacteristicDwarfismCretinism (Congenital Hypothyroidism)
DefinitionCondition of significantly shorter stature than average due to skeletal abnormalities or growth hormone deficiencies.Congenital condition resulting from inadequate thyroid hormone production, leading to growth and developmental delays.
CauseGenetic mutations, hormonal imbalances, skeletal dysplasias, or disruptions in bone growth and development.Thyroid gland abnormalities such as congenital absence, dysgenesis, or defects in hormone synthesis.
Growth PatternsResults in proportionate body parts relative to the individual’s size.May lead to disproportionate growth, delayed bone development, and coarse facial features.
Intellectual DevelopmentGenerally not affected unless there are complications from associated health issues.Can lead to intellectual disability and developmental delays if not promptly treated.
TreatmentVary based on the cause and may include medical interventions, physical therapy, or surgery.Involves thyroid hormone replacement therapy to normalize hormone levels and support normal growth and development.
Associated FeaturesShort stature, varying skeletal abnormalities depending on the type, normal intellectual development.Short stature, delayed bone development, coarse facial features, protruding tongue, and potential intellectual disability.
PrognosisVary depending on the underlying cause and associated health issues. Many individuals can lead fulfilling lives with appropriate management.Prognosis can be good with early diagnosis and treatment, but delays can lead to permanent intellectual and developmental disabilities.
PrevalenceOccurs in approximately 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 40,000 births.Varies depending on the region and access to healthcare, but estimates suggest around 1 in 3,000 to 1 in 4,000 births in areas with adequate healthcare.

Key Takeaways

  • Dwarfism happens due to lack of growth hormones. Cretinism happens due to lack of thyroid. In Dwarf’s case, the height or physical growth is limited below average. In cretin’s case, the growth of brain cells is limited.
  • The dwarfs look normal, sometimes with elongated face and shrinked eyes…and the skin a little older than their age. In cretins case, the head appears larger despite of lack of brain cells. The intelligence level of dwarfs is normal whereas, the cretins face a lot of trouble. They look old or grow with time but mentally remain of a particular age.