You’re probably wondering what is Down syndrome and what causes it. I also didn’t know of its existence until I lost my sister when she was barely a year old. At that time, words like a hole in the heart, slow growth, breathing problems, and trisomy 21 sounded like a foreign language.
I was just fourteen years so I could not understand. All I knew was every time my sister breastfed, she’d choke on the milk. She frequently had digestion problems so constipation was the order of the day. She also suffered from pneumonia which kept on recurring.
Down Syndrome, the foreign term
At eight months, she could not support her head on her own. Moreover, she always held her tongue out (now I understand that it is a characteristic associated with Down Syndrome) and her eyes were slanted. The bridge between her eyes was flat. Years later when I joined High school, I came across Trisomy 21 in my biology class and this time my interest was triggered.
Down Syndrome is a congenital disorder arising from having an extra copy of the chromosome 21. The extra copy can full or partial. Normally, genes are the reason why our bodies work and function the way they do. If even a minor alteration occurs, it can have far reaching effects.
It is easy to tell that someone has Down syndrome because some of the traits can be seen i.e. an upward slant to the eyes, flat nose, small stature, low muscle tone and single deep crease across the center of the palm. Each individual may possess these traits to a different degree. Down Syndrome will involve birth defects, intellectual disabilities, heart defects, visual and hearing impairments.
Anyone regardless of race or economic ability can be born with Down syndrome. However, babies born to women aged 35 years and above are more predisposed. Maternal age is the only factor that has been linked to an increased chance of having a baby with Down syndrome.
Sources: NDSS (National Down Syndrome Society) www.ndss.org
Stanford children Health