By Dr. Shashank Suryavanshi, Pediatrics
If you are expecting a child with Down syndrome or you are a parent to an infant with Down syndrome, reality will set in a little differently than you might have expected. But in time, you will learn that raising a child with Down syndrome is just as joyous and rewarding. It is obviously going to be more challenging, but nothing impossible. With proper support and care, your child will be able to lead a happy and healthy life. Do not be afraid to discuss your fears with friends and family. To make things easier, learn about the syndrome as much as possible. Early intervention is also recommended, where you can put your child in a special school that has a curriculum specially tailored according to the needs of your child for better development. These curriculums can integrate education along with physical and speech therapy.
What is Down syndrome?
Down syndrome is a congenital disorder which is basically something a person is born with. It is characterised by a set of mental and physical traits that are caused by a gene defect. People with Down syndrome have characteristic features like flat-face (moon face), and a short neck. These symptoms are also associated with certain mental disabilities which can range from moderate to mild. This is a life-long disease, although with proper care and support, the quality of life can be, if not as normal, but close to it.
What is the cause of Down syndrome?
It is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome in the genetic makeup. Human beings are normally born with 46 chromosomes; children with Down syndrome are born with 47 chromosomes. Sometimes certain defects in the chromosome can also lead to Down syndrome and aberration in the formation of the brain and the body.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The common physical signs associated with this disease are:
- Short neck
- Flat face
- Upward slanting eyes
- Loose ligaments and poor muscle tone that improve over age
- Ears and mouth that are relatively small
- Under-developed IQ
Children with Down syndrome may be born with heart defects and other congenital defects such as intestinal, breathing or ear problems. These problems can in turn result in problems such as respiratory infection, and hearing loss; things that are curable.
Diseases which are associated with Down syndrome:
- Celiac disease (discomfort caused in the small intestine because of consumption of gluten)
- Vision or hearing problems
- Higher risk of leukaemia or thyroidism
- Intestinal problems
- Heart defects