What is Down Syndrome?

A baby with Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a term that strikes worry in the hearts of many parents, but what exactly IS it? In a nutshell, it is the condition that arises from the presence of three copies of Chromosome 21, instead of the usual two. Otherwise known as Trisomy 21, it affects both the physical and mental development of a person with the condition.

It is possible to detect the condition before the baby is born via blood tests and other screening procedures. If the condition is not detected immediately, however, the characteristics of Down syndrome are fairly easy to spot. Children with Down syndrome often have flat faces and eyes with an upward slant. They may have visibly shorter necks than most children as well as relatively smaller hands and feet. Other signs are deep creases in the palms as well as very weak muscles. As such, children with Down syndrome usually take a longer time to master their motor skills. Furthermore, they usually take much longer to develop intellectually and often encounter challenges in adapting socially.

The risk of having a child with Down syndrome goes up in direct proportion to the mother’s age. This is why many doctors and other medical professionals often recommend prenatal screening, especially for mothers who are over 35 years of age. Furthermore, studies have shown that if the parents have already had a child with Down syndrome, the chances of having another one with the same condition also increase.

Due to the characteristics of Down syndrome, children with this condition encounter many challenges in learning and interacting with others. Furthermore, they tend to be more sickly, something which extends to adulthood. They are more susceptible to problems with their eyesight and hearing, and may be more prone to heart disease, thyroid problems, issues with the skeletal system, and mental conditions such as dementia. Genuine Down syndrome treatment (a.k.a. cure) is yet to be discovered, but, as many families have found, the condition is manageable.

Aside from treating the medical issues arising from weaknesses caused by Down syndrome, parents can get help with educating their child. Children with Down syndrome manage much better if they are given the opportunity to interact with their families and develop social skills outside the home. Therapy can be a very helpful tool as parents help their child reach his full potential. As such, even in the absence of Down syndrome treatment, the child can enjoy a good quality of life and eventually find it possible to integrate with the rest of society. Dealing with Down syndrome is indeed a great challenge for any family, but with some expert help, it is one that parents can manage.


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