Let’s Get Real About Down Syndrome
According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, a syndrome is “a recognizable complex of symptoms and physical findings which indicate a specific condition for which a direct cause is not necessarily understood.” In simpler words, they know it when they see it, but have no idea what causes it.
You will hear phrases like “genetic mutation” and references to “chromosome 21” or “Trisomy 21”, but the exact cause remains unknown. What is known is that about 1 in every 700 children will have the most common form of Down Syndrome.
A complete list of the physical features of Down Syndrome can be found at the Center for Disease Control, so here are some of the most commonly associated characteristics:
*Almond-shaped eyes that slant up
*Small hands and feet
*Will be shorter in height than normally developed children
Based on this broad understanding of Down Syndrome, the question to be answered is what is the best approach to providing the best care for a child or adult who is faced with its many challenges. This will depend on the number and severity of each challenge, so it is important to work with experienced medical and social professionals to determine the best long term course of action. A critical aspect of answering the question is understanding what the life expectancy of someone afflicted with Down Syndrome is projected to be. Currently, that age is about 60 years, which from a realistic viewpoint is longer than some professional athletes live.
One of the guideposts in arriving at a reasonable life expectancy number is to consider the known health conditions that often are found with Down Syndrome patients:
*Heart defects – this life-threatening problem is found in about half of all Down Syndrome babies.
*Immune disorders – these are problems that specifically are the result of having Down Syndrome as it directly affects the person’s immune system. Autoimmune diseases such as diabetes are more likely to occur, as well as cancer.
*Obesity – the current concern with the long term effects of obesity for the general population is known, and Down Syndrome patients have a greater tendency to become obese.
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