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Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome Overview

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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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Down Syndrome Facts

What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a set of physical and mental traits caused by a gene problem that happens before birth. Children who have Down syndrome tend to have certain features, such as a flat face and a short neck. They also have some degree of intellectual disability. This varies from person to person. But in most cases it is mild to moderate.

Down syndrome is a lifelong condition. But with care and support, most children who have Down syndrome can grow up to have healthy, happy, productive lives.


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Down Syndrome »

In 1866, Down described clinical characteristics of the syndrome that now bears his name.

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