In addition to intellectual and developmental disabilities, children with down’s syndrome are at an increased risk for certain health problems, such as heart defects, vision problems, hearing loss, hypothyroidism, blood disorders, hypotonia, etc.
The National down’s syndrome Society states that children with down’s syndrome may experience behavioural and emotional problems, including anxiety, depression, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. They might also display repetitive movements, aggression, autism, psychosis, or social withdrawal. They are also more likely to have difficulty coping with these problems, especially during adolescence.
According to the CDC, about 50% of all babies born with down’s syndrome have a congenital heart defect. CHDs can cause high blood pressure in the lungs, ineffective and inefficient pumping of blood by the heart and cyanosis. Some heart defects can be minor and can be treated with medication, but others need immediate surgery.
More than half of children with down’s syndrome have vision problems, including cataracts that may be present at birth. The risk of cataracts increases with age. Other eye problems that are common among children with down’s syndrome are near-sightedness, “crossed” eyes, and rapid, involuntary eye movements.
Research states that in up to 75% of the cases of down’s syndrome, children have some hearing loss. In some cases, it is related to structural problems with the ear. Children with down’s syndrome also have an increased tendency of ear infections, which should be treated quickly to prevent possible hearing loss.
Many children with down’s syndrome have disrupted sleep patterns and often have obstructive sleep apnea, which causes significant pauses in breathing during sleep. It can also lead to problems in the immune system that can make it difficult for the body to fight off infections, so the risk of infections is high and the children should receive all recommended immunizations to help prevent infections.
Children with down’s syndrome tend to have hypothyroidism (when the thyroid makes little or no thyroid hormone). A child may have thyroid problems at birth or may develop them later, so health care providers recommend a thyroid examination at birth, at 6 months, and annually throughout life.
Down’s syndrome patients are much more likely to have blood disorders such as leukaemia (cancer of the white blood cells), anaemia (low iron in the blood) and polycythemia (high red blood cell levels), among other blood disorders. They may have dental problems such as slow and irregular development of teeth, gum diseases, poor oral hygiene, etc.
Poor muscle tone and low strength can lead to physical difficulties like delays in rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking. It combined with a tendency for the tongue to stick out, can also make it difficult for an infant with down’s syndrome to feed properly and they may need nutritional supplements. In some cases, the weak muscles can cause problems along the digestive tract, leading to various digestive problems, from difficulty swallowing to constipation. Other conditions that are associated with down’s syndrome are Epilepsy, celiac disease, etc. Lastly, older adults with down’s syndrome have an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
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