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About Down Syndrome
Welcome to the Down Syndrome Health Channel by eMedTV. Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder caused by an additional (third) chromosome 21, or "trisomy 21." Occurring in 1 out of 800 live births, it is the most frequent genetic cause of mild to moderate mental retardation. Though Down syndrome is genetic in that it involves an extra chromosome 21, it is not usually hereditary in the conventional sense.
 
Risk Factors for Down Syndrome
There are several established Down syndrome risk factors. Down syndrome risk increases with maternal age -- the older a woman is when she becomes pregnant, the greater the risk. Parents who already have a child with Down syndrome face about a 1 percent chance that another child with the disorder will be born in a subsequent pregnancy, regardless of maternal age. If one of the two parents is a balanced translocation carrier (a person who has part of chromosome 21 attached [translocated] to another chromosome), that may increase the risk for Down syndrome.
 
Effects of Down Syndrome
Some common effects of Down syndrome may be present at birth; others may not become evident until adulthood. In individual cases, the effects of Down syndrome vary widely. These effects may be experienced in nearly every system in the body. Common effects of this condition can include thyroid problems, hearing problems, congenital heart disease, and eye problems.
 
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Babies With Down Syndrome
Parents of babies with Down syndrome should seek the advice of a knowledgeable pediatrician and the many support groups and organizations available. Down syndrome babies often have hypotonia, or poor muscle tone. Because of this reduced muscle tone and a protruding tongue, feeding babies with Down syndrome usually takes longer.
 
Mental Retardation and Down Syndrome
Down syndrome is the most frequent genetic cause of mild to moderate mental retardation. Language development is often delayed or impaired in people with the disorder; they understand more than they can verbalize. Most people with Down syndrome have IQs that fall in the mild to moderate range of mental retardation.
 
Treatments for Down Syndrome
Treatment of Down syndrome focuses on controlling symptoms and medical conditions that result because of the disorder. Options for treatment can include regular checkups and screening, medications, surgery, and counseling and support.
 
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