Down’s syndrome is a genetic disorder in which a person has an extra chromosome. The condition affects about 1 in 800 babies born in the United States each year. Down’s syndrome can cause mild to severe intellectual disability, delayed development, health problems including heart defects and respiratory and hearing problems, and many other effects. People with Down’s syndrome have an increased risk of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
The most common symptom of Down’s syndrome is mental retardation. Other symptoms include poor muscle tone, small stature, flat facial features, drooping eyelids, slanted eyes, poor coordination, the tendency to ear infections, joint deformities such as abnormal walk or feet that turn inward; other signs may include attention span, speech impairment including clear speech, lack of speech or a monotone voice, and delayed growth.
A quarter of children with Down’s syndrome will develop dementia by age 60. Only 6 to 25% of people with Down’s fain live independently after age 18. The cost for yearly support is $7000-$8000 per person.
Down’s syndrome typically occurs by chance. There is no known way to prevent Down’s syndrome. However, a baby with Down’s syndrome may have an increased risk of health problems if the mother:
- Is over age 35 at the time of the baby’s birth;
- Has certain infections during pregnancy (especially rubella );
- Smokes cigarettes during pregnancy; or
- Has poorly controlled diabetes, hypothyroidism, or high blood pressure. Women who are pregnant should talk to their doctor about getting tested for these conditions early in pregnancy. If you carry the gene for Down’s syndrome, there is no reason not to continue a pregnancy.
This condition can be detected before or after birth with amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Prenatal tests such as ultrasound and maternal blood tests can also help detect Down’s syndrome. If you’re pregnant, you may want to talk to your doctor about prenatal testing. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends counseling for parents who may be faced with the decision of whether or not to keep a baby with Down’s syndrome.
Parents who have children with Down’s syndrome should find social support through Parent-to-Parent, Inc., a nationwide organization that offers meetings in many areas across the United States.
The average life span is 60 years for people with Down’s syndrome. There are special schools for children with Down’s syndrome, and some attend regular schools. Many adults with Down’s syndrome live at home or in group homes. Others live independently.