Down syndrome is a genetic problem that occurs before birth and results in a set of mental and physical traits that last a lifetime. The abnormality arises from a cell division error which leads to an extra 21st chromosome. The error is usually referred to as “nondisjunction,” which usually occurs during or at conception. Therefore, this means that a person with Down syndrome will have three copies of the 21st chromosome (whether complete or partial) whereas normal people have only two copies of every chromosome. This chromosomal disorder accounts for 95 percent of Down syndrome cases and results in both physical growth impairment and cognitive disabilities. The disorder can be detected before or after a child is born through a series of screening tests and diagnostic tests.
What Causes Down Syndrome?
As mentioned earlier, Down syndrome is caused by abnormalities in the chromosomes of a baby. While normal people have 46 chromosomes, people with this disorder have 47 chromosomes. Other chromosome problems may result in Down syndrome although this is rare. Abnormal chromosomes change the way the body and brain of a child develops. While experts cannot tell the exact causes of Down syndrome, some risk factors may increase your chances of having a baby with the condition.
Research reveals that advancing maternal age is the major causative of down syndrome in babies even though there are many other risk factors. Expectant mothers aged 35 years and over are at higher risk of getting babies with Down syndrome compared to 1 in 1,000 pregnancies for women less than 30 years. 12 out of 1,000 pregnancies of women older than 40 years result in infants with Down syndrome. Since younger women get more children, they give birth to around 80 percent of children with Down syndrome. If you had another baby with down syndrome or have a brother or sister with the condition, you’re also at risk of delivering a baby with the Down syndrome.
Characteristics of Down Syndrome
People with Down syndrome have special health issues, variability in cognitive development and distinct physical characteristics. The disorder is usually characterized by;
- Below average intelligence
- Abnormal gap between the first and second toe
- Short arms, legs, and neck
- Loose joints and low muscle tone
- Unique facial features including slanting eyes, flat face, small ears and mouth
- Protruding tongue
Most children with the disorder also experience health conditions affecting their intestines, breathing, ears, heart, or any other organ system that would affect normal bodily function. These complications result in other problems including hearing loss or respiratory infections. They also at high risk of contracting childhood leukemia, thyroid conditions, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease. However, most of these health conditions can be treated. Fortunately, individuals with the disorder have a lower risk of being diabetic, retinopathy, hardening of the arteries, or getting most kinds of cancer.
Children with Down syndrome require speech therapy to help them with expressive language since they usually have speech delays. Their developmental milestone is also poor. The average age of sitting for babies with the disorder is 11 months; they can then creep at around 17 months and probably walk in 26 months.
Although Down syndrome is a lifelong condition, children with the disorder can receive proper care and support that will make them be more productive, healthier and live happily. Despite the developmental delays, individuals with the condition can attend school and also become active working members in the society.