Health Matters: Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome – Health Matters


Down syndrome, or Down’s syndrome (primarily in the United Kingdom), trisomy 21, or trisomy G, is a chromosomal disorder caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome. It is named after John Langdon Down, the British physician who described the syndrome in 1866. The disorder was identified as a chromosome 21 trisomy by Jérôme Lejeune in 1959. The condition is characterized by a combination of major and minor differences in structure. Often Down syndrome is associated with some impairment of cognitive ability and physical growth, and a particular set of facial characteristics. Down syndrome in a fetus can be identified with amniocentesis during pregnancy, or in a baby at birth.

Individuals with Down syndrome tend to have a lower than average cognitive ability, often ranging from mild to moderate developmental disabilities. A small number have severe to profound mental disability. The incidence of Down syndrome is estimated at 1 per 800 to 1,000 births, although it is statistically much more common with older mothers. Other factors may also play a role.

Many of the common physical features of Down syndrome may also appear in people with a standard set of chromosomes, including microgenia (an abnormally small chin), an unusually round face, macroglossia (protruding or oversized tongue), an almond shape to the eyes caused by an epicanthic fold of the eyelid, upslanting palpebral fissures (the separation between the upper and lower eyelids), shorter limbs, a single transverse palmar crease (a single instead of a double crease across one or both palms, also called the Simian crease), poor muscle tone, and a larger than normal space between the big and second toes. Health concerns for individuals with Down syndrome include a higher risk for congenital heart defects, gastroesophageal reflux disease, recurrent ear infections, obstructive sleep apnea, and thyroid dysfunctions.

Early childhood intervention, screening for common problems, medical treatment where indicated, a conducive family environment, and vocational training can improve the overall development of children with Down syndrome. Although some of the physical genetic limitations of Down syndrome cannot be overcome, education and proper care will improve quality of life.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_syndrome

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