It is set of mental and physical symptoms that result from having an extra copy of chromosome 21.
Even though people with Down syndrome may have some physical and mental features in common, symptoms of Down syndrome can range from mild to severe. Usually, mental development and physical development are slower in people with Down syndrome than in those without it.
People with the syndrome may also have other health problems. They may be born with heart disease. They may have dementia. They may have hearing problems and problems with the intestines, eyes, thyroid and skeleton.
The chance of having a baby with Down syndrome increases as a woman gets older. Down syndrome cannot be cured. However, many people with Down syndrome live productive lives well into adulthood.
What is Down syndrome?
Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition. It is associated with some common characteristics, as mentioned below:
- Intellectual disability - The degree of intellectual disability varies, but it is usually mild to moderate.
- Appearance - a characteristic facial appearance and poor muscle tone (hypotonia) in infancy.
- Birth Defects- People with Down syndrome may be born with a variety of birth defects. About half of all affected children have a heart defect.
- Digestive abnormalities- such as a blockage of the intestine, are less common.
Individuals with Down syndrome have an increased risk of developing several medical conditions. These include:
- Gastro esophageal reflux- which is a backflow of acidic stomach contents into the esophagus
- Celiac disease- which is an intolerance of a wheat protein called gluten.
- Hypothyroidism- About 15 percent of people with Down syndrome have an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ in the lower neck that produces hormones.
- Hearing and Vision Problems- Individuals with Down syndrome also have an increased risk of hearing and vision problems.
- Blood cancer - Additionally, about 1 percent of children with Down syndrome develop cancer of blood-forming cells (leukemia).
- Alzheimer disease- Adults with Down syndrome have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer disease, a brain disorder that results in a gradual loss of memory, judgment, and ability to function. Although Alzheimer disease is usually a disorder that occurs in older adults, about half of adults with Down syndrome develop this condition by age 50.
How common is Down syndrome?
Down syndrome occurs in about 1 in 740 newborns. Although women of all ages can have a child with Down syndrome, the chance of having a child with this condition increases as a woman gets older.
What are the genetic changes related to Down syndrome?
- Trisomy 21- Most cases of Down syndrome result from trisomy 21, which means each cell in the body has three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two copies. The extra genetic material disrupts the normal course of development, causing the characteristic features of Down syndrome.
- Extra copy of chromosome 21- A small percentage of people with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21 in only some of the body's cells. In these people, the condition is called mosaic Down syndrome.
- Chromosome translocation -Down syndrome can also occur when part of chromosome 21 becomes attached (trans located) to another chromosome during the formation of reproductive cells (eggs and sperm) or very early in fetal development. Affected people have two copies of chromosome 21, plus extra material from chromosome 21 attached to another chromosome. Affected individuals with this genetic change are said to have translocation Down syndrome.
Can Down syndrome be inherited?
Most cases of Down syndrome are not inherited.
- Trisomy 21 - When the condition is caused by trisomy 21, the chromosomal abnormality occurs as a random event during the formation of reproductive cells. The abnormality usually occurs in egg cells, but it occasionally occurs in sperm cells. An error in cell division called nondisjunction results in a reproductive cell with an abnormal number of chromosomes. For example, an egg or sperm cell may gain an extra copy of chromosome 21. If one of these atypical reproductive cells contributes to the genetic makeup of a child, the child will have an extra chromosome 21 in each of the body's cells.
- Mosaic Down syndrome is also not inherited. It occurs as a random event during cell division early in fetal development. As a result, some of the body's cells have the usual two copies of chromosome 21, and other cells have three copies of this chromosome.
- Translocation Down syndrome can be inherited. An unaffected person can carry a rearrangement of genetic material between chromosome 21 and another chromosome. This rearrangement is called a balanced translocation because there is no extra material from chromosome 21. Although they do not have signs of Down syndrome, people who carry this type of balanced translocation are at an increased risk of having children with the condition.
- Down syndrome is set of mental and physical symptoms that result from having an extra copy of chromosome 21. Even though people with Down syndrome may have some physical and mental features in common, symptoms of Down syndrome can range from mild to severe. Usually, mental development and physical development are slower in people with Down syndrome than in those without it.
Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development