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Pediatric Down Syndrome

What Is Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that is caused by an additional full or partial copy of the 21st chromosome. This additional genetic material causes the physical features and developmental changes that are associated with Down syndrome. From doctors to nurses to all our staff at Banner Children’s, we’re tuned in to the special needs of kids with Down syndrome and their families, and we’re ready to provide all the care they may need.

What Causes Down Syndrome?

The exact cause of the additional or partial chromosome is unknown. There is no evidence that Down syndrome is caused by environmental factors or parents’ activity before or during pregnancy. So far, an advanced mother’s age is the only known factor that has been linked to an increased chance of having a baby with down syndrome.

What Are the Symptoms of Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome looks different in everybody. Developmental and intellectual problems in children and adults with Down syndrome can range between mild, moderate or severe.

Children and adults with Down syndrome have distinct facial features. Not all people with Down syndrome have the same features. Some common features include:

  • Small head
  • Flattened face
  • Upward slanting eyelids
  • Short neck
  • Protruding tongue
  • Small or unusually shaped ears
  • Broad, short hands, usually with a single crease in the palm
  • Short fingers and small hands and feet
  • Excessive flexibility
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Short height
  • Brushfield’s spots (tiny white spots on the colored part of the eye)

Infants born with Down syndrome may be average size but will typically grow at a slower rate and remain shorter than other children their same age.

Additionally, most children with Down syndrome also have mild to moderate cognitive disabilities. In most cases, both short- and long-term memory are affected and there is a language delay.

How Is Down Syndrome Diagnosed?

Down syndrome can be diagnosed prenatally and at birth.

Before birth, mothers can get screenings and diagnostic tests done to check for Down syndrome. Prenatal screenings only estimate the chances of a baby being born with Down syndrome while diagnostic tests provide a definitive diagnosis with almost 100% accuracy. When diagnosing at birth, doctors will look for the distinct set of features that accompany Down syndrome to make a diagnosis.

If you’re interested in prenatal screenings or diagnostic tests, your doctor can provide you with more information or refer you to a genetics counselor.

What Is the Treatment for Down Syndrome?

Early intervention for infants and children with Down syndrome can make a big difference in improving their quality of life. Treatments will vary depending on your child’s unique needs, but can include:

  • Educational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech-language therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Emotional and behavioral therapy
  • Drugs and supplements
  • Assistive devices

Whether it’s treatment for your child or coping and support for you and your family, Banner Children’s provides a variety of services and resources for children with Down syndrome.

What Are the Risk Factors for Down Syndrome?

Some parents may have an increased chance of having a baby with Down syndrome. Some risk factors include:

  • Women with an advance age (35 or older)
  • Carrying the genetic translocation for Down syndrome
  • Already having a child with Down syndrome

Living with Down Syndrome

Children with Down syndrome may also have a variety of complications. These complications can become more prominent as they get older and can include:

  • Heart defects
  • Gastrointestinal defects
  • Sleep apnea
  • Obesity
  • Immune disorders
  • Leukemia
  • Spinal problems
  • Dementia

A person with Down syndrome can live more than 60 years depending on the severity of their health problems. Getting routine medical care and treatment for issues when needed is key to helping those with Down syndrome maintain a healthy lifestyle.

No matter how mild or severe your child’s Down syndrome complications are, the compassionate staff at Banner Children’s is here to help from the moment of diagnosis, through treatment and beyond.