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What is Down's Syndrome?


On this page you will find information on Down's Syndrome. This information has been taken from the NHS Choices website -  

You will also find a list of support groups who you can contact for information and support. Click here if you'd like to go straight to the support groups.


1. Introduction to Downs syndrome

Down's syndrome is a genetic disorder named after John Langdon Down, the doctor who first identified it. It affects approximately one in every 1,000 babies. This figure is similar in all populations and is an overall population risk.

The risk is also given as a percentage. A woman with a risk of 1: 270 has a 0.37% chance of having a child with Down syndrome or another way is to say that she has a 99.63% chance of not having a child with Down syndrome.

This means that about 750 babies with Down's syndrome are born each year in the UK. The condition tends to affect male and females equally. It is estimated that there are approximately 60,000 people with Down's syndrome currently living in the UK.

All women have a risk of having a baby with Down's Syndrome and the risk increases with age. The older a mother is, the more chance she has of the baby having this.


2. What is Downs syndrome?

Down's syndrome affects your physical appearance, as well as your ability to learn and develop mentally. It is a lifelong condition, present from birth. Down's syndrome occurs when a baby inherits an extra chromosome.

In the 1950s, many people with Down's syndrome did not live past the age of 15. However, due to a better understanding of the condition and advancements in treatment and care, the average life expectancy of someone with Down's syndrome is now 60-65 years of age.

The severity of Down's syndrome symptoms can vary from person to person. There is currently no cure for the condition. However, there are treatments that can help someone with the syndrome to lead an active and independent life.


3. How will Downs syndrome affect the appearance of my child?

Down's syndrome can affect you in many different ways. Some of the most obvious symptoms are those which affect your physical appearance.

People with Down's syndrome tend to have a number of typical physical features. Some people with the syndrome may only have a few of these features, while others may be more severely affected.

Physical features of Down's syndrome may include:
- eyes which slant upwards,
- small ears,
- flat back of head,
- protruding tongue,
- small mouth,
- flattened nose bridge,
- white spots on the iris (the coloured part of the eye), known as Brushfield spots,
- short fingers,
- broad hands with a single crease across the palm,
- loose skin on the back of the neck,
- vertical skin folds (epicanthic folds) between the upper eyelids and inner corner of the eye,
- loose joints (babies in particular may seem 'floppy'),
- poor muscle tone (hypotonia), and
- low birth weight.


4. How will Downs syndrome affect my childs development?

Down's Syndrome will also affect your child's development. The physical development of children with Down's syndrome tends to be slower than that of other children of a similar age.

They may also be slower to develop socially and mentally. For example, it might take them longer to learn to speak, or to read. All people with Down's syndrome will have some degree of learning disability, although some people are more severely affected than others.

If your child has Down's syndrome, it will not stop them from developing at all. Many people with the condition can still learn all of the physical, mental, and social skills that most other people acquire; they just do it at a different pace.


5. What causes Downs syndrome?

Down's syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs because of an extra chromosome.

When a baby is conceived, it inherits genetic material from its parents. The genetic material is usually transferred to the baby in the form of 46 chromosomes - 23 from each parent.

Down's syndrome is caused by a fault with a chromosome called the 21 chromosome. In most cases of Down's syndrome, a child inherits an extra 21 chromosome, meaning they inherit 47 chromosomes instead of 46. When a person's genetic make-up is unbalanced in this way, it can affect their physical and mental characteristics.


6. Is there anything I can do to avoid having a child with Downs syndrome?

There is nothing you can do to prevent Down's syndrome from occurring.

The chance of having a baby with Down's syndrome increases when the mother is over 35 years of age. A 35-year-old woman has a one in 338 chance and a 45-year-old woman has a one in 32 chance.

However, approximately 80% of babies with Down's syndrome are born to mothers under the age of 35. This is because women under this age make up the majority of the child-bearing population.


7. Am I more likely to have another baby with Downs syndrome if I already have a child with Downs syndrome?

If you already have a child with Down's syndrome, there's a 1% increased risk of you having another baby with the condition.


8. Is there a cure for Downs syndrome?

There is no cure for Down's syndrome, but there are a number of treatments that can help to improve quality of life, giving people with the condition the opportunity to lead healthy, active and more independent lives .


9. Where can I get more information and support?

ARC - Antenatal Results and Choices

Down's Syndrome Association

Down Syndrome Education International

Down's Syndrome Medical Interest Group

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