Those born with Down syndrome have an extra copy of a chromosome – chromosome 21 to be exact. As a result, the person develops differently than others, and it limits their cognitive development.
While the syndrome is relatively common in the U.S., the exact reason babies are born with an extra chromosome is not known. However, those with Down syndrome may be able to live a better quality of life with the right interventions early on. Here are six things to know about the syndrome…
1. It’s The Most Common Chromosomal Condition
DoSomething.org explains 1-in every 691-babies born in the U.S. has Down syndrome, making it the most common condition related to the chromosomes. Currently there are more than 400,000-people in the U.S. living with the condition, notes the source.
The source estimate up to 5,000-children are born with Down syndrome in the U.S. each year, and that roughly 25 per cent of families in the U.S. “are affected” by Down syndrome, it adds.
2. It’s the Least Funded Genetic Condition
Despite being a fairly common condition in the U.S., it is said to receive the least amount of funding for any genetic condition by from the National Institutes of Health (although sources say most cases of the syndrome are not inherited). One theory behind the lack of funding is that because patients have “done so well,” there is less need to put money into research, according to TheHill.com.
However, there are a number of independent sources working diligently to raise money and also work with government to increase funding for Down’s syndrome. One is the Global Down Syndrome Foundation in Denver, which is involved in the Human Trisome Project Biobank, which it calls a “discovery accelerator”.
3. Risk Increases With Maternal Age
The National Down syndrome Society (NDSS) ties the age of an expectant mother to the level of risk of having a child with Down syndrome. The source provides a chart that outlines risk levels at each age – women giving birth at 20-years of age have a 1 in 2,000 incidence of a child with the syndrome.
That risk factor steadily increases, and quite dramatically as a woman reaches her 40’s. While the risk level is 1 in 900 for a woman aged 30, the number jumps to 1 in 100 for a 40-year-old and 1 in 10 for a 49-year-old, according to the source. However, the bulk of babies with the condition are born to the 35-and-under group, as women of this age category give birth more frequently. Prenatal diagnosis is available.
4. Leukemia is More Common in Down Syndrome Patients
As noted before, certain risk factors are associated with having Down’s syndrome. The American Cancer Society says patients are “many times more likely” to develop forms of the blood cancer, including acute lymphocytic leukemia or acute myeloid leukemia. The overall risk factor is up to 3-percent in Down’s patients, it adds.
There’s also another condition called transient myeloproliferative disorder, which is a “leukemia-like condition” that strikes Down’s patients within their first month of life, adds the source. Fortunately, this condition often clears up on its own without medical intervention, it explains.
5. Life Expectancy is Improving
The World Health Organization (WHO) says in the early 1900’s, those born with this syndrome weren’t expected to make it past their 10th-year. However, that number is much more positive now – in fact, the organization notes 80-percent of adults with Down syndrome will reach their 50th-birthday at the least.
WHO notes there are factors that can impact the life expectancy of a Down syndrome patient. “The prognosis of Down Syndrome is variable depending upon the possible complications like heart defects, susceptibility to infections and development of leukemia,” it notes.
6. Patients are Living Fuller Lives
GlobalDownSyndrome.org explains that not only do many people with Down syndrome complete high school (public schools are required by law to provide appropriate education to Down syndrome patients), more patients are continuing on to post-secondary studies – and some colleges and universities have specially-designed programs.
Patients are more commonly holding down jobs (there are some popular actors with the syndrome), and they can volunteer and vote, it notes. Not only that, but some adult patients are able to live independently or with assisted living (children were once placed in institutions), “and a small but growing number have a romantic relationship and even get married,” adds the source.