Down Syndrome babies are prone to a number of potential medical difficulties.
- Heart defects: Around 40 percent of Down Syndrome babies are born with an abnormally developed heart. Most of these conditions are now surgically correctable.
- Intestinal defects: Around 4 percent of these babies are born with a blockage in the upper intestine, called duodenal atresia. This must be surgically corrected to allow food to pass.
- Hypothyroidism: This occurs in around 10 percent of children with Down Syndrome. Because the chance of this condition increases with age and may not be apparent on examination, it is wise to check your baby’s thyroid function at least every two years.
- Vision problems: Many children with Down Syndrome develop a variety of eye problems, such as crossed eyes, nearsightedness, farsightedness, and cataracts.
- Hearing problems: Around 50 percent of these children have varying degrees of hearing problems. Their increased susceptibility to middle ear infections contributes to this.
- Instability of the vertebrae’s: In 10-20 percent of these babies, the first two vertebrae, where the spinal column joins the neck, are unstable (called atlanto-occipital instability ). Babies with this condition are prone to spinal cord injuries from a jolt during contact sports. All Down Syndrome children should have X rays of the upper spine before entering school (between four and five years of age) and before being allowed to participate in contact sports.
- More colds: Down Syndrome babies have reduced immunity, which together with small nasal passages makes them more prone to sinus and ear infections.