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Down syndrome

Down syndrome is a set of mental and physical symptoms that result from having an extra copy of chromosome 21. This happens in the early stages of pregnancy. Having this extra chromosome usually slows the development of the brain and body.

Some common physical signs of Down syndrome include:

  • Flat face with an upward slant to the eyes
  • Short neck
  • Abnormally shaped ears
  • Deep crease in the palm of the hand
  • White spots on the colored portion of the eye
  • Low muscle tension
  • Small hands and feet

Down syndrome also causes intellectual disability. Most people with Down syndrome have a level of intellectual functioning (IQ) that is in the mild to moderate range of intellectual disabilities. They may also be slow in developing language skills and learning to control their movements.

Down syndrome has no cure. But children with Down syndrome can often be helped by:

  • Speech therapy
  • Physical therapy to help them learn to control their movements
  • Occupational therapy to help them learn activities of daily living
  • Special education

With help early in life, many people with Down syndrome can live productive lives well into adulthood.

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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

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