Down Syndrome Information: Characteristics of Down Syndrome

People with Down syndrome possess some unique characteristics that are common among and specific to people with the condition. These characteristics can be divided into three categories: physical; medical; and cognitive (developmental), behavioral and interpersonal.

The severity of Down syndrome varies widely, and similarly the characteristics vary in severity as well. There are three types of Down syndrome: non-disjunction Down syndrome (also known as Trisomy 21), mosaicism Down syndrome, and translocation Down syndrome. It is believed by many researchers and physicians that people with mosaicism and translocation Down syndrome may exhibit fewer of the typical characteristics of the condition than those with non-disjunction Down syndrome, due to the fact that only in non-disjunction is a third chromosome 21 found in all the cells of the body. However, because of the very wide range of impairment and characteristic presence of the syndrome, and to the overwhelming prevalence of non-disjunction Down syndrome, it is hard to say with certainty that this is the case.

Down Syndrome Information
Physical Characteristics of Down Syndrome

Although some of the physical characteristics of Down syndrome may be seen in people without the condition, a combination of certain physical traits is often a fairly easily recognizable indication to parents and physicians that a child has the condition. Although not every child with Down syndrome will carry noticeable physical characteristics, in approximately 80% of all cases, a recognizable combination of these physical traits will be present in the child or adult with Down syndrome.

Some of the most common characteristics of people with Down syndrome include:
�· A flattened appearance to the face
�· A high, broad forehead
�· A smaller head, proportionately
�· An upward slant to the eyes
�· A narrow slit to the eyes
�· Pronounced bags or folds under the eyes
�· A small, depressed nose
�· Small ears
�· Ears set quite low to the face
�· A small mouth
�· A large or protruding tongue
�· A short neck
�· Short arms and legs
�· Short fingers and toes
�· Large space between the first and second toe
�· A single, deep crease in the center of the palm
�· Poor muscle tone (hypotonia)
�· Loose joints (hyperflexability)
�· Weak reflexes

As stated above, any of these physical characteristics can be seen in people who do not have Down syndrome. It is the findings of a few or several of these characteristics in the same child that may prompt the parents or child’s physician to consider testing for Down syndrome. The basic rule of thumb is that if six to ten of the above-mentioned characteristics are present, the diagnosis of Down syndrome can be reasonably assumed, however a karyotype test (a test that shows the number and pairing of the chromosomes in the cells) may be performed even if a few of the physical traits are present, particularly if they are coupled with any of the medical or cognitive characteristics.

Down Syndrome Information
Medical Characteristics of Down Syndrome

There are several medical concerns that are specific to Down syndrome, or at the very least, occur in much higher incidence than in people who do not have the condition. However, with proper identification, information, and treatment of the medical issues of children and adults with Down syndrome, most people with the condition live a fairly long and health life. The current average life span of a person with Down syndrome is fifty-five years, with many living decades longer.

The most serious of the medical characteristics associated with Down syndrome is cardiac abnormalities. Approximately 40% of all children born with the condition have congenital heart defects, and many of them are serious in nature. Proper cardiac monitoring of children with Down syndrome is imperative, and should begin as soon the child is born, or the condition is identified. Many of the heart problems experienced by people with Down syndrome are progressive. Medication and lifelong cardiac following is not uncommon, and in some cases, heart surgery may be indicated.

Children with Down syndrome also commonly exhibit a depressed immune system. Because of this, they tend have a higher incidence of infection, and respiratory problems, not to mention frequency of the usual cough, cold and flu viruses experienced my all children.

Other medical problems include epilepsy, vision and hearing problems, gastrointestinal and thyroid problems, skin problems, and various other medical conditions. People with Down syndrome also have a strong tendency toward developing obesity.

Down Syndrome Information
Cognitive or Developmental, Behavioral, and Interpersonal Characteristics of Down Syndrome

There is an extremely wide disparity among people with Down syndrome in the issues of cognitive or developmental delay. With very few exceptions, people with Down syndrome exhibit some developmental problems, but the range can span from almost imperceivable to severe, or profound.

Many people with Down syndrome can attend school with their non Down syndrome peers, attain higher education, and work full time at jobs in the community with little or not assistance. Others require more help and may either attend special education classes in their school or a school for the developmentally delayed. They may also require residential and workplace assistance in a structured environment.

Behaviorally and interpersonally, one of the most striking common traits among a large percentage of people with Down syndrome is a loving and affectionate nature. It is not uncommon for a person with the condition to bond easily and frequently with others, including with strangers or people they know only a little.

Impulse control can also be depressed in people with Down syndrome. This lends itself to another behavioral characteristic, which is a strong attention to food and eating, and a resulting tendency toward overweight and obesity. At a higher rate than the non Down syndrome population, food is a compelling driving force for many with the condition, and the restriction or limiting of food intake can present a particular problem for people with Down syndrome and for their caregivers.

More Information about Down Syndrome
Down Syndrome Information: What is Down Syndrome?
Down Syndrome Information: Diagnosis of Down Syndrome
Down Syndrome Information: Causes of Down Syndrome
Down Syndrome Information: What Special Care do People with Down Syndrome Need?

Down Syndrome Information: Frequently Asked Questions
Down Syndrome Information: A Personal Account

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