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What is Down syndrome?
Down syndrome is a genetic condition which is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. It occurs in 1 out of every 691 births and affects people of all races and economic levels. Typically, babies receive 23 chromosomes from their mother and 23 from their father. A baby with Down syndrome, for unknown reasons, will have three copies of the 21st chromosome instead of two. That is why Down syndrome is also called Trisomy 21. Every cell will contain 47 instead of the typical 46 chromosomes.
There are also two other forms of Down syndrome which are quite rare – mosaic and translocation. This extra genetic material will affect a baby’s development, however, the baby has also inherited many physical and personality characteristics from his/her parents as well. A definitive diagnosis can only be made with a karyotype, which is a visual display of a baby’s chromosomes. In the United States there are approximately 350,000 individuals living with Down syndrome. These individuals are active, vital members of their families and communities. A life with Down syndrome is a life well worth living.
Facts about Down syndrome (National Down Syndrome Society)
- Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels.
- The incidence of births of children with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother. But due to higher fertility rates in younger women, 80% of children with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 years of age.
- People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions. Many of these conditions are now treatable, so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.
- A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are: low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm. Every person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees or not at all.
- Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades – from 25 in 1983 to 60 today.
- People with Down syndrome attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect them, have meaningful relationships, vote and contribute to society in many wonderful ways.
- All people with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays, but the effect is usually mild to moderate and is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each individual possesses.
- Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to lead fulfilling and productive lives.