Down syndrome was once a dreaded genetic condition. With better medical facilities resulting in improved treatment, and increasing awareness among the community, a lot has changed in patients with Down syndrome over the years. Here are some facts about Down syndrome
- Down syndrome is named after John Langdon Down, an English physician who first published a description of Down syndrome in 1866.
- Down syndrome affects around one in every 700 babies in the United States, making it the most common chromosomal disorder.
- Around 95% people with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome 21. The remaining 5% have an extra copy of chromosome 21 attached to another chromosome, or mosaicism, where some cells have trisomy 21 while others have the typical number of chromosomes.
- Conditions like hearing loss, ear infections, and obstructive sleep apnea and eye diseases are common, affecting between 50 and 75% individuals with Down syndrome. Heart disease is also noted in around half of affected individuals.
- Though Down syndrome is associated with an older maternal age, it is also common in babies whose mothers are less than 35 years old. 80% of newborns with down syndrome in the United States are born to mothers under the age of 35 years.
- People with Down syndrome have an increased life expectancy and often live into adulthood and even enter old age. Currently, the average lifespan of a person with down syndrome is estimated to be 60 years.
- Low birth weight and presence of a heart disease at birth increase the chances of early death in a child with Down syndrome.
- Around half of individuals with Down syndrome are at a risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease over the age of 50 years. Also, they are at risk of developing autism, celiac disease and childhood leukaemia.
- Lack of adequate funds for Down syndrome research is a major drawback in detecting and treating its complications early. The delay in fundings for research has made Down syndrome the least-funded major genetic condition in the US.
- There is no cure for Down syndrome. However, with adequate support, children with Down syndrome can go on to lead productive lives. Early interventions such as physical and speech therapies in the first five years can have a significant impact on their intellectual developments.
Having a child with Down syndrome does not mean that it is the end of all your joys in life. Several accounts from families with a member with Down syndrome have shown that a baby with Down syndrome can bring equal, sometimes, even more joy, than a genetically normal child. Of course, challenges will be there, but they could be there with any other child as well.