Understanding Down Syndrome

What is Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that, unlike most syndromes, is usually not inherited. Typically, the nucleus of each cell inside a person's body contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when there is an abnormality in a person's 21st chromosome, possessing either a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This excess of genetic material alters a person's development, leading to Down syndrome.  Down syndrome is the most common form of an intellectual disability present at birth. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every 691 babies born in the United States is diagnosed. 

Common Characteristics:

Individuals with Down syndrome are sometimes easy to identify because many possess similar physical attributes. Distinctive traits include:  thick folds in the corner of the eyes causing them to slant upward, short hands that have a single deep crease across the center of the palm, small stature, hyper flexibility, a protruding tongue, hyperflexibiliy of joints, and low muscle tone. Although very common, these features vary considerably amongst each individual. 

A person with Down syndrome will have intellectual disabilities that range from mild to moderate. It is also likely that they will endure difficulties in physical coordination and language development. Often, Down syndrome people have dementia, or similar problems affecting their memory, judgment, and concentration.

Physical Problems:

Those with Down syndrome have an increased risk of respiratory infections and heart defects. Other health issues include, blocked small intestine, celiac disease, hearing problems, cataracts or other problems with vision, thyroid problems, and skeletal issues. It has also been proven that Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome are linked.