Understanding Down Syndrome
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Approximately one in 700 babies will be born with Down syndrome, making it one of the most common chromosomal conditions. Normally, people have 46 chromosomes in the nuclei of their cells. In Down syndrome, there is an extra copy of chromosome 21, and the affected person will have 47 chromosomes in each nucleus. Read on to learn more about this condition.
What are the signs and symptoms of Down syndrome?
The extra chromosome 21 in Down syndrome affects the way the child looks and develops. Children who are born with Down syndrome tend to have certain facial features, such as upward slanting eyes, a small nose and small ears. They also tend to have less muscle tone than their 46-chromosome counterparts. Children with Down syndrome also often have other health problems such as heart and thyroid conditions.
Risk factors for Down syndrome
Down syndrome can occur in babies born to mothers of all age groups and population groups. Advancing maternal age, however, is known to increase the risk. A woman at age 35 has a one in 350 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome, and by age 40, the odds are one in 30.
Screening for Down syndrome
Down syndrome can be detected during pregnancy through certain screening tests. Screening is particularly advisable in older pregnant women. A variety of tests are available, and while they do not definitively diagnose Down syndrome, they assist healthcare practitioners in identifying women at risk.
Can a child with Down syndrome have a normal life?
Most children with Down syndrome have mild to moderate cognitive difficulties, which affects schooling and vocational pursuits. Increasingly, people with Down’s syndrome are integrating into society, schools and the workplace. Down syndrome affects life expectancy because of the associated medical complications, particularly heart problems, but people with Down syndrome are living longer lives due to medical advances.
The information in this article is intended for general purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health or the health of your child, you should always consult with a healthcare professional.