Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that results in mental and physical developmental delays. In addition to these disabilities, individuals diagnosed with Down syndrome often develop certain health complications.
It’s important to note that health complications experienced by individuals with Down syndrome also occur throughout the general population. However, the nature of this genetic disorder places affected individuals at a higher risk of experiencing certain health conditions. Some of the most common health complications experienced by individuals with Down syndrome are explained below.
Approximately 54% of babies born with Down syndrome will be diagnosed with congenital heart disease, making it the most common physical abnormality diagnosed in children with Down syndrome. Some heart defects can be more severe than others and treatments can range from medications to surgical intervention.
Down syndrome can affect the ability of an individual’s immune system to protect against and fight off infections. For this reason, children with Down syndrome are more likely to contract infections and suffer complications associated with untreated infections.
Children with Down syndrome have a higher risk of developing leukemia, a cancer that affects the blood cells, compared to children without Down syndrome. They are especially prone to two types of leukemia called acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Hearing loss is a common health complication for individuals with Down syndrome, which subsequently leads to difficulties in speech and language development. Identifying hearing loss early on allows doctors to apply interventions that can help treat hearing loss or prevent it from worsening. Additionally, if hearing loss is causing difficulties with learning, specialists can work with children early on to help them use other methods to improve learning abilities, such as learning sign language.
Can Down Syndrome be Diagnosed Before Birth?
Expecting parents may want to know more information about their baby, more specifically, if their child is at risk of being born with Down syndrome. Information from prenatal screening and tests can help expecting parents prepare in advance any necessary health care for their child. Noninvasive prenatal genetic testing allows doctors to understand the risk that a child may be born with Down syndrome or other conditions that can affect the baby’s health. If results from this test show a high risk of Down syndrome, diagnostic testing options will be presented to the couple to get receive definitive a diagnosis.
Preparing for Your Child With Down Syndrome
If prenatal diagnostic tests show a positive diagnosis of Down syndrome for your baby, you can talk to your doctor about taking steps toward preparing necessary medical care for your child. Some physical abnormalities, such as heart defects, can be detected during ultrasound imaging tests. If needed, parents can arrange for a specialist to be present at the time of birth in order to perform any necessary surgeries as soon as possible.
Want to Learn More About Down Syndrome?
If you have questions about Down syndrome and the common health complications experienced by children with this condition, talk to your doctor or with a genetic counselor. Learning about Down syndrome and other common genetic disorders allows parents to make informed decisions regarding their child’s health.