|What is Down syndrome?|
Down syndrome (or Down’s syndrome) is a chromosomal disorder caused by an error in cell division that results in an extra 21st chromosome. The condition leads to impairments in both cognitive ability and physical growth that range from mild to moderate developmental disabilities. Through a series of screenings and tests, Down syndrome can be detected before and after a baby is born.
The only factor known to affect the probability of having a baby with Down syndrome is maternal age. That is, less than one in 1000 pregnancies for mothers less than 30 years of age results in a baby with Down syndrome. For mothers who are 44 years of age, about 1 in 35 pregnancies results in a baby with Down syndrome. Because younger women generally have more children, about 75% – 80% of children with Down syndrome are born to younger women.
|Characteristics of people with Down syndrome|
Individuals with Down syndrome often have distinct physical characteristics, unique health issues and variability in cognitive development. Physical characteristics include:
- Eyes that have an upward slant, oblique fissures, epicanthic skin folds on the inner corner, and white spots on the iris.
- Low muscle tone.
- Small stature and short neck.
- Flat nasal bridge.
- Single, deep creases across the center of the palm.
- Protruding tongue.
- Large space between large and second toe.
- A single flexion furrow of the fifth finger.
|What are common treatments for Down syndrome?|
There is no single, standard treatment for Down syndrome. Treatments are based on each individual’s physical and intellectual needs as well as his or her personal strengths and limitations. People with Down syndrome can receive proper care while living at home and in the community.
A child with Down syndrome likely will receive care from a team of health professionals, including, but not limited to, physicians, special educators, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and social workers. All professionals who interact with children with Down syndrome should provide stimulation and encouragement.
People with Down syndrome are at a greater risk for a number of health problems and conditions than are those who do not have Down syndrome. Many of these associated conditions may require immediate care right after birth, occasional treatment throughout childhood and adolescence, or long-term treatments throughout life. For example, an infant with Down syndrome may need surgery a few days after birth to correct a heart defect; or a person with Down syndrome may have digestive problems that require a lifelong special diet.