Down syndrome

  • Alternative Names

    Trisomy 21


    Treatment

    There is no specific treatment for Down syndrome. A child born with a gastrointestinal blockage may need major surgery immediately after birth. Certain heart defects may also require surgery.

    When breast-feeding, the baby should be well supported and fully awake. The baby may have some leakage because of poor tongue control. However, many infants with Down syndrome can successfully breast-feed.

    Obesity can become a problem for older children and adults. Getting plenty of activity and avoiding high-calorie foods are important. Before beginning sports activities, the child's neck and hips should be examined.

    Behavioral training can help people with Down syndrome and their families deal with the frustration, anger, and compulsive behavior that often occur. Parents and caregivers should learn to help a person with Down syndrome deal with frustration. At the same time, it is important to encourage independence.

    Adolescent females and women with Down syndrome are usually able to get pregnant. There is an increased risk of sexual abuse and other types of abuse in both males and females. It is important for those with Down syndrome to:

    • Be taught about pregnancy and taking the proper precautions
    • Learn to advocate for themselves in difficult situations
    • Be in a safe environment

    If the person has any heart defects or problems, check with the physician about the need for antibiotics to prevent heart infections called endocarditis.

    Special education and training is offered in most communities for children with delays in mental development. Speech therapy may help improve language skills. Physical therapy may teach movement skills. Occupational therapy may help with feeding and performing tasks. Mental health care can help both parents and the child manage mood or behavior problems. Special educators are also often needed.


    Support Groups

    National Down Syndrome Society - www.ndss.org

    National Down Syndrome Congress -- www.ndsccenter.org


    Expectations (prognosis)

    Persons with Down syndrome are living longer than ever before. Although many children have physical and mental limitations, they can live independent and productive lives well into adulthood.

    About half of children with Down syndrome are born with heart problems, including atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect, and endocardial cushion defects. Severe heart problems may lead to early death.

    Persons with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain types of leukemia, which can also cause early death.

    The level of mental retardation varies from patient to patient, but is usually moderate. Adults with Down syndrome have an increased risk for dementia.


    Complications
    • Airway blockage during sleep
    • Compression injury of the spinal cord
    • Endocarditis
    • Eye problems
    • Frequent ear infections and increased risk of other infections
    • Hearing loss
    • Heart problems
    • Gastrointestinal blockage
    • Weakness of the back bones at the top of the neck

    Calling your health care provider

    A health care provider should be consulted to determine if the child needs special education and training. It is important for the child to have regular check ups with his or her doctor.