Beneath the surface: Down Syndrome Awareness

Posted on March 21, 2018 by kerri

World Down Syndrome Day is creatively on March 21. Why is that creative? The numeric date, 3/21, is a nod to the chromosome alteration that causes Down Syndrome: an extra (or third) 21st chromosome, is the cause of the most common chromosomal condition, which affects 1 in 700 people in the US—each year, 6000 babies with Down Syndrome are born. [1]

down syndrome awareness ribbon, one side yellow and one side blue.

A feature of Down Syndrome is the distinct facial features of people with DS. Despite the common features of a “flattened” facial profile and nose, small head, mouth, and ears, and short nick, people with Down Syndrome are all unique individuals. [2] The degree of intellectual disability or developmental delay and learning problems associated with DS varies from person to person—mild to moderate cognitive impairment is more common amongst people with Down Syndrome than is severe. Children with Down Syndrome may have delayed communication or language skills, but most develop skills to communicate verbally. [2] They may experience attention problems, impaired judgement and impulsivity, in addition to learning and speech delays. [2]

People with DS must not be put in “boxes”. While often people with Down Syndrome are happy, affectionate, and loving, they experience feelings like the rest of us, and are all individuals as stated above! This means it’s important to not make generalizations about people with DS, and get to know them for who they are!

Other health problems linked to DS

Nearly half of babies born with Down Syndrome have a congenital heart defect. These can vary from minor problems that can be fixed with medicine to more severe problems that require emergency surgery. [3]

Vision problems and hearing problems are common among people with DS. 60% of children with DS have eye problems including cataracts—near sightedness and “crossed eyes” are common.  [3] 70 to 75% of children with Down Syndrome have hearing loss due to structural problems of the inner ear. [3] Many of these ear problems can be corrected. Ear infections are also common, and should be treated quickly to ensure no damage is done to hearing. [3]

Hypothyroidism is common in people with Down Syndrome—it is treated by taking thyroid medicine throughout life. [3]

Muscles and spine problems: Hypotonia—low muscle tone—can affect movement and feeding and is common with Down Syndrome. [3] As well, instability of the neck joint (atlantoaxial instability) can cause risk of spinal injury with surgery or for certain sports. [3]

Digestive problems, feeding problems, gum disease, and dental problems, as well as disrupted sleep can also be linked to Down Syndrome. [3]

Other medical conditions, including leukemia, epilepsy, Celiac disease, and mental health conditions including autism, aggression, psychosis, or withdrawal from social situations, can also co-exist with DS. [3]

Adults with DS will experience these same problems, and may also face additional health issues. Premature aging, dementia, memory loss, and impaired judgement are common in adults with Down Syndrome. [4] Medical issues associated with aging may occur earlier [4], with a study noting aging prematurity of an average of 11.5 years, both in typical aging related patterns of appearance, as well as—to a lesser extent—physiologically in cellular processes. [5]

While Down Syndrome is easily identifiable, other health conditions may not be. People with DS should wear a Down Syndrome Medical ID bracelet or necklace that outlines other health problems experienced, including hearing loss and visual impairment that may affect their response in an emergency.

Leave Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
*