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Down Syndrome


Down syndrome

is a condition that occurs when a baby is born with an extra chromosome. Chromosomes are groups of genes that tell the body how to grow and function. This extra chromosome causes certain physical features and delays in physical and mental development. It also increases your child's risk for certain health problems. The cause of Down syndrome is not known. A woman's risk for having a baby with Down syndrome increases with age.

Physical features of Down syndrome:

Not all people with Down syndrome will have the same physical features. Your child may have any of the following:

  • A flat face with an upward slant to the eyes
  • A short neck, small ears, and a large tongue
  • Small hands with single crease across the middle of the palm
  • Small feet with a large space between the big and second toes
  • Short pinky fingers that sometimes curve toward the thumb

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your baby is breathing faster than usual.
  • Your baby's breathing is noisy.
  • The area between or under your baby's ribs pulls inward as he or she breathes in.

Call your baby's doctor if:

  • Your baby has a fever.
  • You are having trouble feeding your baby, and you feel he or she is not getting enough to eat.
  • You have questions or concerns about your baby's condition or care.

How Down syndrome may affect your child's health:

Your child may be born with the following conditions or develop them later in life:

  • Heart defects
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, blocked intestine, or celiac disease
  • Ear or sinus infections
  • Skeletal problems, such as hip dislocation
  • Hearing or vision problems
  • Thyroid disease or blood disorders
  • Obesity or sleep apnea
  • Problems with memory, concentration, or judgment
  • Speech or language delays

Help your baby reach his or her physical and mental potential:

  • Take part in early intervention. Early intervention includes therapy, exercises, and activities that will help your baby's development during his or her first 5 years. He or she may need occupational, physical, or speech therapy.
  • Schedule regular checkups with your baby's doctor. Checkups will be needed often because your baby's risk for medical conditions and developmental problems is higher. Your baby's doctor will closely monitor his or her growth, development, and general health. Your baby will need regular physical, hearing, and eye exams.
  • Bring your baby in to get vaccines. Your baby should receive all recommended vaccines. Ask your baby's pediatrician about flu immunizations.

Feeding your baby:

  • Your baby may have trouble breastfeeding because of poor muscle tone. A lactation consultant can help you if your baby is having trouble latching on. A lactation consultant also can teach you how to pump and store breast milk.
    Correct Latch-on Breastfeeding
  • Your baby may have trouble swallowing or have other feeding problems. Your baby's healthcare provider may recommend that you take your baby to a feeding specialist.

Prevent constipation:

When your baby begins to eat solid foods, he or she may have trouble with constipation. Give your baby extra fluids and fiber. Foods that are high in fiber are fruits and vegetables. Talk with your baby's pediatrician if his or her constipation does not go away.

Follow up with your baby's doctor:

Your baby will need regular checkups. He or she may need more blood tests and exams. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For support and more information:

  • National Down Syndrome Society
    666 Broadway
    New York , NY 10012
    Web Address:

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Down Syndrome (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.