|Down Syndrome - Characteristics
There are over 50 clinical signs of Down syndrome,
but it is rare to find all or even most of them in one person. Some common
Poor muscle tone;
Individuals with Down syndrome are usually smaller
than their non-disabled peers, and their physical as well as intellectual
development is slower.
Slanting eyes with folds of skin at the inner corners
(called epicanthal folds);
Hyperflexibility (excessive ability to extend the
Short, broad hands with a single crease across
the palm on one or both hands;
Broad feet with short toes;
Flat bridge of the nose;
Short, low-set ears;
Small oral cavity; and/or
Short, high-pitched cries in infancy.
Besides having a distinct physical appearance, children with Down syndrome
frequently have specific health-related problems. A lowered resistance to
infection makes these children more prone to respiratory problems. Visual
problems such as crossed eyes and far- or nearsightedness are higher in
those with Down syndrome, as are mild to moderate hearing loss and speech
Approximately one third of babies born with Down syndrome have heart defects,
most of which are now successfully correctable. Some individuals are born
with gastrointestinal tract problems that can be surgically corrected.
Some people with Down syndrome also may have a condition known as Atlantoaxial
Instability, a misalignment of the top two vertebrae of the neck. This condition
makes these individuals more prone to injury if they participate in activities
which overextend or flex the neck. Parents are urged to have their child
examined by a physician to determine whether or not their child should be
restricted from sports and activities which place stress on the neck. Although
this misalignment is a potentially serious condition, proper diagnosis can
help prevent serious injury.
Children with Down syndrome may have a tendency to become obese as they
grow older. Besides having negative social implications, this weight gain
threatens these individuals' health and longevity. A supervised diet and
exercise program may help reduce this problem.