10 Common Health Problems in Down Syndrome

The person who has Down’s Syndrome is at greater risk of having health problems such as heart, vision and hearing problems.

However, each person is unique and has their own specific characteristics and health problems. Thus, it is important to go to the doctor every 6 months or whenever any symptoms appear to identify and treat any health problem early.

The 10 most common health problems in babies and children with Down syndrome are: 

1. Heart defects

About half of people who have Down’s Syndrome have a defect in the heart and so the doctor can observe certain parameters even during pregnancy to know what are the cardiac changes that may be present, but even after birth, tests can be performed such as echocardiography to identify more precisely what changes are present in the heart.

How to treat: Certain cardiac changes need surgery to correct them, although most can be controlled with medication.

2. Blood problems

The child with Down Syndrome is more likely to have blood problems such as anemia, which is a lack of iron in the blood; polycythemia, which is the excess of red blood cells, or leukemia, which is a type of cancer that affects white blood cells. 

How to treat: To combat anemia the doctor may prescribe the use of iron supplement, in case of polycythemia it may be necessary to have a blood transfusion to normalize the amount of red cells in the body, in the case of leukemia, chemotherapy may be indicated .

3. Hearing problems

It is very common for children with Down Syndrome to have some alteration in their hearing, which is usually due to the formation of the bones of the ear, and for that reason they can be born deaf, with reduced hearing and have a higher risk of having ear infections, that can get worse and cause hearing loss. The little forehead can indicate from a newborn if there is any hearing impairment but it is possible to suspect if the baby does not hear well. Here are some ways to test your baby’s hearing at home .

How to treat it: When the person has hearing loss or, in some cases of hearing loss, hearing aids can be placed so that they can hear better, but in some cases surgery to improve their ability to hear can be recommended. In addition, whenever an ear infection occurs, the treatment indicated by the doctor must be carried out to cure the infection quickly, thus avoiding hearing loss.

4. Increased risk of pneumonia

Due to the fragility of the immune system, it is common for people with Down Syndrome to have a higher risk of becoming ill, being especially affected by respiratory diseases. So any flu or cold can turn into pneumonia 

How to treat: Your diet must be very healthy, the child must take all vaccinations at the recommended ages and must regularly go to the pediatrician to be able to identify any health problem as soon as possible to start the appropriate treatment, and thus avoid further complications. In case of flu or cold you should be aware if a fever develops as this may be the first sign of pneumonia in the baby. Take the test online and see if it really could be pneumonia .

5. Hypothyroidism 

Those with Down syndrome are at high risk for hypothyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce the required amount of hormones, or any hormones. This change can be detected during pregnancy, at birth, but it can also develop throughout life.

How to treat: It is possible to take hormonal medicines to supply the body’s needs but it is necessary to have blood tests to measure TSH, T3 and T4 every 6 months to adjust the dose of the medicine.

6. Vision problems

More than half of people with Down’s Syndrome have some visual change such as myopia, strabismus and cataracts, the latter usually developing at an older age. 

How to treat: It may be necessary to exercise to correct strabismus, wear glasses or have surgery to treat cataracts when they appear

7. Sleep apnea 

Obstructive sleep apnea happens when the air finds it difficult to pass through the airways when the person is sleeping, this causes the person to have snoring episodes and small moments of breathing stops when sleeping.

How to treat: The doctor may indicate surgery to remove tonsils and tonsils to facilitate the passage of air or indicate the use of a small device to put in the mouth to sleep. Another device is a mask called CPAP that throws fresh air on the person’s face while sleeping and can also be an alternative, although it is a little uncomfortable at first. Learn the necessary care and how to treat baby’s sleep apnea . 

8. Changes in teeth

Teeth usually take time to appear and appear misaligned, but in addition there may also be periodontal disease due to poor tooth hygiene.

How to treat: After birth, right after each feeding, parents should clean the baby’s mouth very well using a clean gauze to ensure that the mouth is always clean, which helps in the formation of baby teeth. The baby should go to the dentist as soon as the first tooth appears and regular consultations should take place every 6 months. In some cases it may be necessary to place braces on the teeth so that they are aligned and functional. 

9. Celiac disease 

As the child with Down Syndrome is more likely to have celiac disease, the pediatrician may request that the baby food be gluten free, and in case of suspicion, at around 1 year of age a blood test can be done which can help in diagnosis of celiac disease.

How to treat: The diet must be gluten-free and a nutritionist can indicate what the child can eat, according to his age and energy needs. 

10. Spinal injury 

The first spine vertebrae are usually deformed and unstable, which increases the risk of spinal cord injury, which can paralyze arms and legs. This type of injury can happen when holding the baby without supporting his head, or while playing sports. The doctor should order radiography or MRI to assess the risk of the child having problems with the cervical spine and inform the parents of the possible risks.

How to treat: In the first 5 months of life care must be taken to keep the baby’s neck safe, and whenever you hold the baby on your lap, support your head with your hand, until the baby has enough strength to hold the head steady. But even after that happens, you should avoid somersaults that can damage that child’s cervical spine. As the child develops the risk of a spinal cord injury decreases, but it is still safer to avoid contact sports like martial arts, football or handball, for example. 

The adult with Down Syndrome, on the other hand, can develop other diseases such as obesity, high cholesterol and those related to aging such as dementia, with Alzheimer’s being more common.

But in addition, the person can still develop any other health problem that affects the general population, such as depression, insomnia or diabetes, so the best way to improve the quality of life of the person with this syndrome is having an adequate diet, healthy habits and follow all medical guidelines throughout life, because that way health problems can be controlled or solved, whenever they arise.

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