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Down Syndrome is a birth defect that occurs when a child has more chromosomes than normal, and it affects the child’s appearance and mental abilities. There is no cure for Down Syndrome. Recent evidence has linked the maternal use of SSRI antidepressants to a wide range of birth defects. Many women whose children were injured from these medications are now contacting The Clark Firm LLP.

Down Syndrome Overview

Down Syndrome is a birth defect that affects a child’s physical and mental traits. It is one of the most common genetic birth defects, occurring in approximately one baby out of every 1,000 live births. People with this disorder often have mental disabilities that range from mild to moderate. It is associated with a set of abnormal facial features, including a flatter face and a short, thick neck. Many children born with this disorder also have heart, intestine, ear, or breathing problems, but usually these can be treated. The severity of the defect differs greatly among people. Life expectancy is about 55 years.

Down Syndrome usually occurs due to a chromosomal abnormality. A chromosome is the part of the cell that contain each person’s individual genetic material, or DNA. Normally, a baby haas 46 chromosomes. A person with Down Syndrome, however, has 47 chromosomes. This causes the brain and body to develop abnormally when the child is in the womb.

Signs & Symptoms of Down Syndrome

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women be offered a prenatal screening for Down Syndrome. These tests may include ultrasound, testing the amniotic fluid, or chorionic villus sampling to test for normal chromosomal development. The ultrasound is usually performed late in the first trimester of pregnancy, and the technician looks for thickness in the baby’s neck (called a “nuchal fold”).

When the child is born, it will probably be able to do the things most children can do, including walking, talking, dressing, and being potty-trained. However, there is usually a longer delay before they are able to do these things. Intervention programs can be very successful to help a child with Down Syndrome develop life skills.

Physical Signs:

  • Short stature: children usually grow slowly, and as adults they are usually smaller than average
  • Low muscle tone, less strength than children of the same age
  • Short neck, thick with fat and excess skin
  • Short and stocky limbs
  • One fold in the center of the palm, called the simian line

Facial Symptoms:

  • Abnormally positioned eyes
  • Ears smaller and lower than an average child
  • Abnormal mouth and tongue; mouth is usually open
  • Flattened nasal bridge
  • Brushfield’s spots: colored spots on the iris of the eyes

Neurological impairments

Most people with Down Syndrome have mild to moderate mental retardation. There is no way to predict mental abilities based on facial features. With intervention, fewer than 10% have severe mental retardation.

  • Impulsive behavior
  • Poor judgment
  • Short attention span
  • Slow learning
  • As children with Down Syndrome become aware of their impairments, they may also exhibit frustration and anger

Treatment & Prognosis

There is no cure for Down Syndrome. Behavioral treatment can help a person with Down Syndrome learn to control their anger, frustration, and impulsive behavior. Encouraging a person with Down Syndrome to develop independence is also very beneficial for their long-term well-being. Special education is available in most communities, and can be beneficial for children with learning disabilities. Speech therapy can help with language skills, physical therapy can help with motor development and coordination, and occupational therapy can help them learn to perform daily tasks independently.

About half of people born with Down Syndrome also have heart defects, often an Atrial Septal Defect. They are also at risk of developing certain types of leukemia. Late in life, they are at an increased risk of developing dementia.

Many people born with Down Syndrome live long, independent, productive lives well into adulthood.