Baby, Toddler

Down’s syndrome – Characteristics, Cause, Management & Care

Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition that some babies are born with around the world. However, not all babies with the syndrome live to show similar characteristics. Each baby grows to show very different characteristics from those shown by other affected babies.
It can be very challenging having a baby with Down’s syndrome. This is because such babies tend to develop such other health complications as heart disorders, pneumonia, thyroid gland problems and loss of hearing/vision.

Characteristics

Babies born with Down’s syndrome do grow only to show certain characteristics, which differ from one individual to another.
Appearance – A baby may grow only to show reduced muscle tone that is often floppy, flat nasal bridge and tiny nose, a small mouth that allows the tongue to protrude, flat back of the head, upward slanting eyes, large hands with short fingers and a large sandal gap.

Development – Babies born with the syndrome grow only to show delayed development in various areas. They simply become very slow in walking, talking or standing. Their learning ability also tends to be very slow. However, these characteristics do improve with time. It is only that they are delayed.

It is also very common for babies born with the syndrome to grow only to resemble either the father or the mother. It is very rare to find a baby born with the syndrome resembling his/her siblings.

Causes

Down’s symptom is a genetic condition and therefore hereditary. The body naturally has genes that are grouped to form chromosomes. Cells in these genes naturally contain up to 46 chromosomes. It is the chromosomes that dictate a baby’s cell development, eye color, and gender.

A developing baby naturally inherits 23 chromosomes from each of the parents. It happens that there are developing babies who inherit extra chromosomes and particularly chromosome 21. They literally inherit the original chromosome 21 and its copy, meaning that such a baby ends up with 47 chromosomes. A baby with extra chromosomes literally has additional genetic material, which leads to both physical and development problems.

There are different types of Down’s syndrome:
Trisomy 21 – This is the type that affects about 90% of babies. It is the main type of the syndrome where all body cells have an extra copy of chromosome 21.

Translocation – This is similar to Trisomy 21 except that only a small portion of chromosome 21 attaches to a different chromosome. A baby affected with this type of the syndrome has 46 chromosomes in a cell but with one chromosome having an extra piece of chromosome. This type of Down’s syndrome affects about 6% of babies.

Mosaicism – This is the rare type of the syndrome that affects about 4% of babies. It is where only a few body cells have an extra portion of chromosome 21.

These different types of Down’s syndrome determine how mild or severe the symptoms can be.

Management & Care

The majority of pregnant women are often screened during pregnancy to ascertain the health of their unborn babies. Down’s syndrome can easily be identified before a baby is born through screening and the expecting mother counseled and educated on how best to care for her baby after delivering.

Babies born with the syndrome do need a lot of support in the course of their lives. Indeed, there are a good number of organizations and local groups mostly made up of parents with children who have the condition that a mother with such baby can join and get the necessary support in terms of education, emotional, professional and financial support.

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