1. What is Down syndrome?
Down syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome in a baby’s cells. In the majority of cases, Down syndrome is not an inherited condition. Down syndrome usually occurs because of a chance happening at the time of conception.
2. What causes Down syndrome?
As yet we do not know what causes the presence of an extra chromosome 21. It can come from either the mother or the father. There is no way of predicting whether a person is more or less likely to make and egg or sperm with 24 chromosomes.
There is a definite link with advanced maternal age for reasons yet unknown. However most babies with Down syndrome are born to women under the age of 35, as younger women have higher fertility rates.
What we do know is that no one is to blame. Nothing done before or during pregnancy can cause Down syndrome. It occurs in all races, social classes and in all countries throughout the world. It can happen to anyone.
3. What are common symptoms of Down syndrome?
The symptoms of Down syndrome vary from person to person, and people with Down syndrome may have different problems at different times of their lives.
- Common physical signs of Down syndrome include,
- Decreased or poor muscle tone
- Short neck, with excess skin at the back of the neck
- Flattened facial profile and nose
- Small head, ears, and mouth
- Upward slanting eyes, often with a skin fold that comes out from the upper eyelid and covers the inner corner of the eye
- White spots on the colored part of the eye (called Brushfield spots)
- Wide, short hands with short fingers
- A single, deep, crease across the palm of the hand
- A deep groove between the first and second toes
- Short attention span
- Slow learning
- Delayed language and speech development
4. As a mother, did I do anything wrong to cause my baby to be born with Down syndrome?
Nothing you did or thought caused your child to have Down syndrome. All individuals who have Down syndrome were born with extra chromosome material in their cells. This is a result of an error in cell division, in either the egg or sperm, prior to conception or very soon afterward. At this time it is not known why the extra genetic material causes Down syndrome.
5. What should I be doing to help my baby?
Soon after birth, early intervention specialists, including physical, occupational, and speech therapists, will guide you in how to promote your baby’s progress. Talk to other parents who live near you. They are often the best source of information for people and programs that can help maximize your child’s potential.
6. Are there special programs for children with Down syndrome?
There are programs available for people with Down syndrome in all stages of development. These include early intervention, preschool programs, free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment, therapy, post-secondary school options, employment training, and a wide array of social and support programs.
7. What is the life expectancy?
In 1929, the average life expectancy was 9 years, but with awareness, better health care, and community resources, many individuals with Down syndrome now live into their 60′s. As medical care continues to advance, the life span of many individuals will be even longer.
8. Is there a cure for Down syndrome?
No, there is no cure. The extra chromosome will remain in cells throughout the person’s life. Early intervention, high quality health care, good educational opportunities, appropriate nutrition, and many other interventions make a huge difference in the individual’s life, however.
9. If I have a child with Down syndrome, will I have another?
Not necessarily, but advanced age is a risk factor. The type of Down syndrome your child has is also a factor. A Robertsonian Translocation could indicate a familial origin. Genetic counseling is available to answer questions like this for individuals.
10. Will my child walk, talk, etc.?
Unless there is another condition that is present, almost all individuals with Down syndrome do learn to walk and to talk.
11. What conditions or disorders are commonly associated with Down syndrome?
In addition to intellectual and developmental disabilities, children with Down syndrome are at an increased risk for certain health problems. However, each individual with Down syndrome is different, and not every person will have serious health problems. Many of these associated conditions can be treated with medication, surgery, or other interventions.
Some of the conditions that occur more often among children with Down syndrome include:
- Heart defects
- Vision problems
- Hearing loss
- Blood disorders.
- Gum disease and dental problems.
- Digestive problems.
- Celiac disease.
- Mental health and emotional problems.