Down?s Syndrome, Trisomy 21, or Mongolism is one of the most common causes of mental retardation. The majority of Down?s Syndrome patients have a moderate retardation although it can range from mild to severe. Trisomy 21 occurs in about 1 in 800 live births. This incidence increases markedly as the age of the mother increases over 35. The prevalence in children born to young mothers is 1 in 1000, while it increases to almost 1 in 40 in children born to mothers over 40. Most individuals with Down?s Syndrome have characteristic features such as upward slanted eyes, broad flattened face, short neck, and a prominent tongue. Muscle coordination is often impaired in these individuals, resulting in uncoordinated posture and balance. Congenital heart disease is found in forty percent of these individuals, along with a near twenty fold increase in the risk of kidney malformation, thyroid abnormalities, diabetes, leukemia. Neurological retardation and impaired immune systems render these individuals more susceptible to infection and disease.
In the early l900s, Downs Syndrome patients rarely lived to reach the age of twenty, as they only had a life expectancy of about 10 years. With the advances of modern health care, most individuals, excluding those with irreparable heart damage, live to reach adulthood. Although it is still shorter than normal adults, their life expectancy has increased to about fifty-five.
The disorder was initially described as Mongolism by British physician John Langdon Down. Many theories for the etiology of this condition surfaced, including racial regression, endocrine gland dysfunction, and uterine exhaustion. It was not until the 1930s that Adrian Bleyer hypothesized tha...
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