Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic defect brought on by the presence of part or all of an extra chromosome 21. The disorder is named after a British doctor, John Langdon Down, who first described the syndrome in 1866.
A person suffering from Down syndrome has impaired cognitive ability, physical growth and facial features. Usually the syndrome can be detected while the woman is pregnant through a process known as amniocentesis.
The severity of the syndrome varies from one person to another. It is not possible for a doctor to predict the symptoms before the birth. However, some problems like malformed heart are present at the time of the birth while others like epilepsy develop in due course.
The most common problems of Down syndrome are the facial features, cognitive impairment, congenital heart defect, hearing problems, short stature, thyroid disorder, and Alzheimer's disease. All these problems are serious. Other less serious complications include leukemia, immune deficiency and epilepsy.
The health problems that occur on account of Down syndrome are responsible for lowering life expectancy of a person with this disorder. A study carried out in 2002 in the United States revealed that the average lifespan of a person with Down syndrome is around 49 years. In 1980, life expectancy of a person with Down syndrome was just 25 years. This means that better medical facilities and advancement in science has helped doctors improve life expectancy.
In contrast, in utero life expectancy of a fetus with Down syndrome is hardly few weeks and sometimes few months. Nearly three quarters of fetuses with Down syndrome are naturally aborted before being born. 15 percent of babies born with Down syndrome die before their first birth; life expectancy of the next 35 percent is death before reaching the age of 50; and life expectancy of the balance 50 percent is more than 50 years.
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