Down Syndrome is a condition that causes physical and mental delays in the development of children. The condition, also known as Trisomy 21, affects around one child out of every 700-800 children. The condition is caused by the addition of an extra chromosome. Normal babies will have 46 chromosomes, 23 from both parents. It is this excess of genetic material that causes the physical and mental delays. There are no known causes that can be pinpointed, but age can be a factor. The older a mother is, the higher her chances of conceiving a child with the condition.
The degree of down syndrome from child to child can vary greatly. Many children with the condition go on to live fairly healthy lives, while some may have more major medical issues. Luckily these issues are treatable. Today there are many resources to help families dealing with down syndrome. This condition cannot be prevented, but it can be detected during pregnancy, through several types of testing. Being forewarned helps parents to prepare on how to bring their child into the world and to offer them the best chances at a healthy life.
The Affect On Children
Down Syndrome children share the same facial characteristics, they have a tongue that is larger than normal, and may stick out of their mouth. They have eyes that slant upward slightly. The facial profile is flat. They have smaller than normal ears. They have hypotonia, which means their muscle tone is lacking. A baby will feel more like a rag doll, their arms, legs and head will flop more. Babies will develop muscle tone with time, but they are behind where normal kids reach certain physical milestones. They will sit, crawl and even walk a lot later than a normal child. A DS baby will be normal sized at birth, but the delays start immediately.
Down Syndrome babies will have issues with being able to feed properly and as a result they may have digestive problems. Their delays will continue through toddlerhood, they will be slower to learn to feed themselves, to potty train and to dress themselves. Some DS children will be able to learn things fairly normally, while others may have moderate mental impairment. Many are able to learn vital skills to be able to be a contributing member of our society. They just may learn a bit slower than a normal average child.
Down syndrome may or may not give the child medical problems. It is hard to tell at birth. DS children tend to have issues with their heart. Some may suffer with pulmonary hypertension and need to be closely monitored if they do. It is common for them to have eye and ear issues. Hearing loss happens when too much fluid builds up in the ears and they may need glasses to correct vision issues. They need to be checked for thyroid, digestive, respiratory, and other infections. The key is to evaluate them with a physical probably more often than with normal children. Just be on the lookout for health issues and be aware that most all issues are treatable and easily managed.