Down Syndrome Overview
The earliest known depiction of a person with Down syndrome is an angel in a Flemish painting dated 1515. In 1866, Doctor John Langdon Down first described Down syndrome as a disorder, but he misunderstood how Down syndrome arises. The cause of Down syndrome was discovered rather recently in 1959.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder and the most common cause of cognitive impairment. All individuals with Down syndrome have mild to moderate learning disabilities, distinctive facial features, and low muscle tone (hypotonia) in early infancy. Down syndrome is also often associated with heart defects,leukemia, and early-onset Alzheimer's disease. The degree to which an individual is affected by these characteristics varies from mild to severe.
Due to recent advances in medical care and social inclusion, life expectancy has increased dramatically for individuals with Down syndrome. A majority of infants with Down syndrome survive 1 year, and half of people with Down syndrome live longer than 50 years. The average life span is greater than 55 years.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/18/2014
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