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Symptoms of Down syndrome

Other Diseases By Dr Poonam Sachdev , Expert Content / May 30, 2012
Symptoms of Down syndrome

There are many characteristic features of Down syndrome. Some of the characteristic physical features include upward slanting eyes; protruding tongue; short and wide neck; flat nose bridge; and short, stocky arms and legs. Children with Down&rsquo

There are many characteristic features of Down syndrome. A child with Down’s syndrome may not have all the features and every child's symptoms can vary in number and severity. Some of the characteristics and features may be observed in children who do not have Down syndrome as well.

General characteristics

Some of the following physical traits are present in children’s Down syndrome (they may vary in severity):

  • Short stature — Most children with Down’s grow slowly and in the adult, height is shorter than average.
  • Weak muscles (hypotonia) — It is observed throughout the body. Hence these children often seem to have less strength than other children of the same age. As the abdominal muscles are weak, the stomach may protrude.
  • Short, wide neck with excess fat and skin. The severity is observed to decrease as child gets older.
  • Short, stocky arms and legs.
  • Wide space between the big toe and second toe.
  • Simian crease—that is a single crease across the centre of the palms of the hands. It is also called a transverse palmar crease.

Facial features

People with Down’s syndrome often have distinct facial features, such as:

  • Upward slanting eyes.
  • Small, and low-set ears.
  • Small mouth and big tongue (this causes the tongue to partly stick out).
  • Flat back of scalp.
  • Flat nose bridge (nasal bridge is the flat area between the nose and eyes).
  • Roof of the mouth (palate) may be narrow and high with a downward curve.
  • White spots on the coloured part of the eye (iris). These are known as Brushfield spots, but they do not affect the child's vision.
  • Delayed dentition (teething) and the teeth tend to be irregular and crooked teeth
  • Epicanthic folds (that is vertical skin folds between the upper eyelids and inner corner of the eye).

Learning difficulties

Learning difficulties is present in all children with Down’s syndrome which can vary from mild to moderate. People with Down’s syndrome may have an IQ that can vary from 25 to 80, with an average score of 50. Intelligence quotient (IQ) is a way of measuring a person’s intelligence and the IQ score for the general population is 100.

Some problems which are observed in children with Down’s syndrome are:

  • Memory problems — affects both short-term and long-term memory.
  • Concentration problems – most of them have low attention spans.
  • Difficulty problem solving.
  • Difficulty in understanding the consequences of their actions

Delayed development

Children with Down’s syndrome usually have delayed physical and mental development, which can vary in severity form mild to severe.

The height of a child with Down’s syndrome is usually much shorter than other children their age. The adult, height is shorter than average– around 158cm (5.2ft) for men and 140cm (4.6ft) for women.

As the physical development is delayed, these children take longer to crawl, sit and walk. Mental development is also delayed. Hence, these children usually take longer to reach important developmental milestones, such as:

  • learning to speak
  • learning to read
  • learning the social skills that are used for social interaction.

However with appropriate support and treatment, a child with Down’s syndrome may still be able to acquire most, if not all, of the mental and social skills as other children.

Other medical conditions

People with Down’s syndrome are prone to have other medical conditions such as congenital heart disease, hearing and vision problems, diseases such as hypothyroidism, celiac disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.


Read more articles on Down Syndrome




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