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Down Syndrome

Down syndrome information

What is Down syndrome? Down syndrome, also called Down's syndrome or trisomy 21, is a chromosomal disorder. It was named after John Langdon Down, who discovered it in 1866. It occurs because of the presence of all or some of an extra 21st chromosome. Normally, a child receives 23 chromosomes from its mother and 23 from its father, for a total of 46, but when Down syndrome occurs, a child has 47 chromosomes instead.

Women who give birth after the age of 35 have a greater risk of giving birth to a baby affected with Down syndrome. There is no way to prevent trisomy 21, but there is plenty of research and information on Downs syndrome online and in medical journals.

Down Syndrome Characteristics

Those with Down syndrome often have a flat facial profile, an upward slant to their eyes, small ears and a large or protruding tongue. At birth, they are normal size, but they often grow slower than others. As infants, they may have sucking and feeding problems, constipation and other digestive problems. Those with Down Syndrome also have lower muscle tone than other children. Although this improves over time, they may sit up, crawl and walk at a later age than other children.

Toddlers and older children may be delayed in reaching milestones, such as speaking for the first time, as well as learning other skills, like using the toilet, feeding themselves and dressing themselves.

Down syndrome also affects cognitive ability. Impairments in reasoning, judgment, memory and perception are likely, and some experience profound mental disability. However, most are capable of learning, though at a slower pace and within narrower limits than the average person. How much can be learned and how quickly depends largely on the individual and the degree to which he or she is affected.

Down Syndrome Statistics

  • About 1 in every 800 babies has Down syndrome.
  • Up to half of affected children have a congenital heart defect.
  • Having Down syndrome increases the chances of getting leukemia by up to 20 percent.
  • All affected individuals will develop some type of Alzheimer's disease after 35.

Most Down syndrome children grow to enjoy a relatively normal life. Affected individuals are employed by banks, corporations, small and medium-sized offices, the entertainment industry, and in numerous other productive jobs.

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