What is Down’s Syndrome?
Down syndrome (also called Down’s syndrome) or Trisomy 21 is a medical condition in which a person is born with an extra copy of their 21st chromosome. Chromosomes are bundles of genes, and one’s body functions better with the right amount of chromosomes and genes. These genes carry the information that ultimately determines one’s features (such as… hair color, skin color, how you digest food, color of eyes…) that is inherited from one’s parents. With Down’s syndrome, the presence of an extra chromosome causes delays in the way a child develops both mentally and physically and unfortunately is a lifelong condition.
The physical features and medical problems associated with Down syndrome can vary widely from child to child. While some kids with Down Syndrome need a lot of medical attention, others lead healthy lives, and although it can’t be cured, advances in medicine has made it possible for medical personnel to know more about it and in turn, provide assistance to families with a loved one suffering from this condition. With the help of doctors and parents/caregivers, people with Down syndrome are able to live meaningful lives.
Causes of Down’s Syndrome
It starts from conception. Normally, during conception, a baby inherits his or her genes from its parents. These genes are carried in chromosomes and a total of 46 chromosomes (23 pairs) are passed to any child. One chromosome in each pair comes from the mother, and the other comes from the father (23 from the mother and 23 from the father). But with Down Syndrome, something happens and an extra copy of chromosome 21 appears. so instead of 2 chromosome 21, the baby ends up with 3. This extra chromosome causes problems as the brain and physical features develop. Doctors are still unsure why this happens and there’s been no link to any environmental factors or habits/traits from the parents.
Scientists say there is no way to prevent this chromosomal error but that women age 35 and older are at a higher risk of having a child with this condition.
What are the effects and symptoms of Down’s Syndrome
There are several side effects of Down Syndrome, and it differs from person to person, but one feature most people with Down Syndrome have is a flat nose, eyes that slant upwards, short neck, small head and ears and bulging tongue.
At birth, kids with Down Syndrome grow at a much slower rate and often remain smaller than their peers
Low muscle tone is another characteristics of children with Down Syndrome. This may contribute to sucking and feeding problems later, as well as constipation and other digestive problems.
Their mental abilities will vary, but most have mild to moderate issues with thinking, reasoning, and understanding. Some have short attention span, slow learning capabilities and poor judgement. They’ll learn and pick up new skills their whole lives, but may take longer to reach important goals like walking, talking, and developing social skills.
Many people with Down syndrome don’t have any other health issues, but some do. Common medical conditions include heart defects, hearing loss, cataracts, hip problems, dementia, sleep apnea, obesity, late tooth growth. Children with Down Syndrome reach developmental milestones, but at a later time than their peers, which is why it is important not to compare them with typically developing siblings or even other children with the condition.
Types of Down’s Syndrome
There are three types of Down’s syndrome:
Trisomy 21. This is by far the most common type, where every cell in the body has three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two.
Translocation Down syndrome. In this type, each cell has part of an extra chromosome 21, or an entirely extra one. But it’s attached to another chromosome instead of being on its own.
Mosaic Down syndrome. This is the rarest type, where only some cells have an extra chromosome 21.
You can’t tell what type of Down’s syndrome someone has just by how they look. The effects of all three types are very similar, but someone with mosaic Down syndrome may not have as many signs and symptoms because fewer cells have the extra chromosome.
Treatments for Down’s Syndrome
While there is no cure for Down’s Syndrome, there is a variety of support and educational programs that can help both people with the condition and people living with them. There are special education teachers and therapists who will help children with developing their sensory skills, social skills, language and cognitive abilities.
School is an important part of the life of a child with Down’s Syndrome, regardless of intellectual ability. Public and private schools support people with Down’s Syndrome and their families with integrated classrooms and special education opportunities. Schooling allows valuable socialization and helps students with Down’s Syndrome build important life skills.
Living with Down’s Syndrome
With the advancement in Science and medicine, the lifespan for people with Down’s Syndrome has improved and life expectancy for people with Down Syndrome has reached an average of 50 to 60 years, which was not the case decades ago.
It is understandably difficult raising a child with this condition, but with a close relationship with medical professionals who understand the condition, you’ll be able to pull through.
Also, building a strong support network of understanding family and friends is not only crucial but also helps in living with the condition a lot easier. Remember that people with the condition all over the world are thriving and living well with their families. The same is possible for you or anyone living with it.