Down Syndrome and Heart Disease

Down Syndrome  is a chromosomal disorder caused by an extra cell division that results in an extra 21st chromosome. This causes developmental delays both intellectually and physically. The disorder is named after John Langdon Down, a British physician who was the first to describe the syndrome in 1866. The disorder was later identified by Jerome LeJeune in 1959 as a condition associated by the chromosome structure. Down syndrome is the most common chromosome disorder. Each year, about 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome.

An estimate of 1 in 700 babies born. The life expectancy of people with Down syndrome increased between 1960 and 2007. In 1960, an average person with Down syndrome lived to be 10 years old compared to 2007 with people with Down syndrome living to 47 years of age. Often, people born with Down syndrome may develop health issues and a cognitive development ranging from mild to severe. There is often a speech delay and children may lag behind with fine and gross motor skills. Physical characteristics may include a flat nasal bridge, single, deep creases across the center of the palm, protruding tongue, large space between the large and second toe, low muscle tone, almond shape to the eyes.

 

The causes of Down syndrome is due to an extra copy of chromosome 21 in every cell. This is the most common form of Down syndrome. It represents 94% of all cases of Down syndrome. Congenital  heart failure affects 300,000 or 40% of individuals with Down syndrome. There are 3 types:

  • atrioventricular septal defect (AV Canal)- a condition caused by the Septum failure to close properly. This occurs during the embryonic stage and results in a large opening at the center of the heart.
  • Persistent Ductus Arteriosus- when a tube that continues to exists after a baby is born. It is a persistent opening between the two major blood vessels leading from the heart.
  • Tetralogy of Fallot- a heart condition composed of four abnormalities: 1) Ventricular Septal Defect 2) a narrowing of the passage from the right ventricular to the lungs 3) an over enlarged right ventricle due to blood back up 4) an over enlarged aorta, which carries blood from the left ventricle to the body.

Congenital Heart Disease can range from severe to mild. Typically, students do not require special care. For those with more severe heart issues, be aware of the signs and symptoms of a student heart disease is getting worse. This include:

  1. Arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm that can cause the heart to beat fast or too slow
  2. Congenital heart failure- when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to meet the needs of the body.
  3. Pulmonary hypertension- a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue and weakness
  • swelling
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • persistent cough

Things to be aware of in students with Heart Issues:

Tires easily or becomes short of breath after exercise

May have exercise restrictions

May need extra time to go and from classes

 

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