Discover the warning signs and health risks associated with Down syndrome in infants. Stay informed and aware of the symptoms to ensure your child’s health and well-being. Check out our guide on Down Syndrome Symptoms in Infants.
Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal disorder in the United States, affecting around one in every 700 newborns. According to Dr. Amy Houtrow, Ph.D., individuals with Down syndrome have an additional chromosome 21 copy.
According to Dr. Houtrow, this additional genetic material impairs normal mental and physical development and may create lasting health difficulties. Often, Down syndrome is detected during normal prenatal ultrasounds or genetic testing, such as amniocentesis. Otherwise, the issue will be identified at birth. Continue reading to discover common indicators of Down syndrome in infants and children.
Physical Symptoms of Down Syndrome
According to Emily Jean Davidson, M.D., clinical head of the Down syndrome department at Boston Children’s Hospital, people with Down syndrome tend to have distinct physical qualities while also resembling their family members. The physical characteristics of persons with Down syndrome vary, but the following are some frequent characteristics.
- Flattened face, particularly noticeable on the nose and side profile.
- Almond-shaped eyes with an upward tilt.
- Weak muscle tone.
- Expanded tongue.
- Short height.
- Little head, mouth, ears, hands, fingers, and/or toes, and/or feet.
- Short neck.
- Joint laxity and greater mobility.
- There are white dots on the iris of each eye.
- A deep fold that traverses the palm (palmar crease).
- Curved pinky finger.
Overall, you may anticipate that your child will attain the same developmental milestones as his or her peers, including rolling over, walking, and speaking, but at a slower rate due to a lack of muscle tone. The order in which your infant meets milestones (such as advancing from sitting unattended to crawling, standing, and finally walking) is, therefore more essential than the age at which the milestone is completed.
Intellectual Down Syndrome Manifestations
Down syndrome impairs children’s capacity to learn in a variety of ways. Dr. Kenneth Rosenbaum notes that most children have mild to moderate intellectual disabilities and tend to gain new abilities gradually. Speech and language development may take longer than usual. Moreover, developmental delays may result in impulsive conduct, a short attention span, obstinacy, and impaired judgment.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that all babies born with Down syndrome are entitled to free early intervention programs. This is because the first years of a child’s life are so important for their future development. These include physical therapy to improve motor skills and muscle tone, speech-language therapy to improve listening and speaking skills and help with swallowing problems, and occupational therapy for helping children learn life skills like how to feed and dress themselves, open doors, and hold crayons.
Dr. Rosenbaum notes that some children with Down syndrome enroll in special education programs while others thrive in general education settings. The optimal academic placement for your child will depend on their individual symptoms and accessible academic options and resources. With sufficient support and education, your child will continue to learn throughout their lifetime, regardless of the situation.
Risk and Complications of Down Syndrome
Babies with Down syndrome are susceptible to additional health issues, which can complicate infant care. Below are some frequent consequences of Down syndrome and its treatments.
Heart defects affect approximately fifty percent of newborns with Down syndrome. Certain heart problems are detected during prenatal ultrasounds, and the majority of them can be treated surgically after delivery.
Obstructive sleep apnea
Children with Down syndrome frequently have a tongue that is swollen and has impaired muscular tone. During sleep, their tongue may fall into the back of the throat. This can develop into obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which a person stops breathing for brief durations. Approximately 45 percent of Down syndrome youngsters have obstructive sleep apnea.
Watch for indicators of sleep apnea as your kid grows, including snoring, restless sleep, gasping sounds, frequent night awakenings, and daytime lethargy. Sleep apnea is normally not a concern in infants. Due to the significant risk of apnea, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that all children with Down syndrome undergo a baseline sleep study by age 4.
Your infant may have constricted ear canals and be susceptible to ear infections. To ensure that your baby’s hearing is not affected, the AAP recommends screenings every six months from birth until 3 or 4 years of age (after which testing should be done annually).
More than fifty percent of individuals with Down syndrome have an eye problem. In newborns, difficulties can range from moderate (blocked tear ducts) to severe (severe infection) (cataracts). Even children with no known vision abnormalities should visit a pediatric ophthalmologist every one to two years to ensure that they receive the appropriate care in the event that problems occur.
Some infants with Down syndrome are afflicted by Hirschsprung disease, an intestinal nerve disorder that makes bowel movements difficult. Also, your baby is more likely to have a blockage in the small intestines, which can cause severe vomiting, a weak connection between the windpipe and the esophagus, which can make your baby often choke while being fed, and a closed anal opening. Surgical intervention is required for each of these disorders.
Thyroid Gland Dysfunction
The thyroid gland does not operate normally in over 10% of children with Down syndrome. Your infant will get hypothyroidism screening at birth and at least once every two years thereafter. If their thyroid is dysfunctional, medication can be of assistance.
People with Down syndrome are more inclined to get immune system diseases, infections, dementia, leukemia, obesity, and blood problems. They are also more likely to get a wide range of other health problems. Your child’s pediatrician will examine your child for any medical issues and devise a treatment plan for their ailments.
All of these possible health problems may sound frightening, but they are all manageable, and early intervention is highly beneficial in enhancing health, enhancing skills, and fostering healthy growth. Get help from family members and the community. Interacting with other families who have children with Down syndrome and gaining access to local services and resources can also be beneficial.
A child born with Down syndrome today can expect to have a long and healthy life. According to the CDC, the life expectancy of people with Down syndrome has increased considerably over the past several decades, from 25 years in 1983 to 60 years in 2020. Your infant can thrive just as well as any other with your love and care.
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