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Down's syndrome is a life-long chromosomal disorder. It occurs randomly at the point of conception and affects males and females alike. It is rarely hereditary and nothing the parents did before or during pregnancy will have caused it. It can range in severity from mild to severe. About 750 children are born with Down's syndrome every year
It is a lifelong condition and there is no cure; however, there are many ways to ensure that each individual with Down's syndrome is given the right type and amount of support that they need to develop to their full potential.
Down's syndrome is most often caused by having a full or partial ('mosaic') third copy of chromosome 21 when you should just have 2 copies. This is why Down's syndrome is sometimes referred to as 'trisomy 21' (trisomy means 'third copy'). This extra copy means certain genes are over-expressed, which is why people with Down's syndrome will often share physical, cognitive and behavioural features.
A mother's age has a bearing on the possibility of the syndrome in their child - the risk of having a child with Down's syndrome increases markedly the older the mother is.
People with Down's syndrome will often share similar physical features. They tend to have a small nose with a flat nasal bridge, a small mouth, eyes that slant upwards and outwards, and restricted growth. People with Down's syndrome will also tend to have movement and speech delay. Speech in particular remains below average into adulthood.
A common feature of Down's syndrome is a below average IQ. The average IQ for a person with Down's syndrome is 50.
People with Down's syndrome also have an increased risk of a number of different health problems, including heart problems.
The NHS website provides more information on Down's syndrome.
The Down's Syndrome Association website provides information and support to people with Downs Syndrome and their carers on all aspects of living with Down's syndrome.
The Down's Heart Group is a charity offering support and information relating to heart conditions associated with Down's Syndrome.
The Easy Health website has gathered together some easy-read information for people with Down's Syndrome to help them to understand their condition.