About Down syndrome
Down syndrome (DS), also called Trisomy 21, is a condition in which a person is born with an extra chromosome. Chromosomes contain hundreds, or even thousands, of genes. Genes carry the information that determines your traits (features or characteristics passed on to you from your parents). With Down syndrome, the extra chromosome causes delays in the way a child develops, mentally and physically.
What Causes It?
Normally, at the time of conception a baby inherits genetic information from its parents in the form of 46 chromosomes: 23 from the mother and 23 from the father. In most cases of Down syndrome, a child gets an extra chromosome 21 — for a total of 47 chromosomes instead of 46. It is this extra genetic material that causes the physical features and developmental delays associated with Down syndrome. Down syndrome is one of the most common causes of learning disability in children due to the presence of the chromosome called trisomy 21.
Early signs and symptoms of Down syndrome
Early signs of Down syndrome can be detected before a child is born. Doctors begin by first diagnosing the condition from the womb. An ultrasound test is carried out and through this test; doctors are able to notice early signs, usually in the nuchal translucency, which is a collection of fluid under the skin at the back of the baby’s neck in your womb.
The physical features and medical problems associated with Down syndrome can vary widely from child to child. While some children need a lot of medical attention, others lead healthy lives. According to Dr. Choice Onyinyechi, when a child is born, there are certain symptoms doctors take note of. These include whether the child has – low muscle tone, flat head, small nose, an upward slant to the eyes, small mouth, protruded tongue, small ears, short fingers, a single deep crease across the center of the palm instead of three – although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.
Is Down syndrome hereditary?
It is not yet certain whether Down syndrome is hereditary or not, says Dr. Choice Onyinyechi. Though the condition has been associated with aging or to a gene translocation, it being inheritable has not been well documented. What is known about Down syndrome is the presence of the trisomy 21. But the fact that you have Down syndrome and have a child does not prove that the child will also have Down syndrome, she noted.
Can Down syndrome be prevented?
Though Down syndrome cannot be prevented, some countries have put in place measures such as selective abortion – whereby through consent, the pregnancy is terminated because having the child would affect the health and lifestyle of the mother. Though some countries have condemned the practice and likened it to genocide, while also arguing that fetuses (babies or children) have a right to life, the choice always has to be made by the parent, Dr. Choice Onyinyechi explained.