Down's Syndrome

Down's Syndrome: Overview

It is believed that people with Down's syndrome have always existed.  However, it was not until 1866 that the English doctor, John Langdon Down published a description of the condition, which subsequently took his name.

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People with Down's syndrome do not have a particular personality type.  People with Down's syndrome are individuals.  However, people with Down's syndrome are more likely to use certain coping strategies.  For example, it is common for people with Down's syndrome to use routine, order and sameness as a way of rationalizing and controlling their lives.  Similarly, people with Down's syndrome may also use self-talk as a way of directing their behavior, expressing their feelings and making sense of what is sometimes a very confusing world.  Change can be very disorientating especially if one has a learning disability.

People with Down's syndrome have sometimes been portrayed as being stubborn.  Stubbornness and a refusal to co-operate may be a signal from the individual that they do not fully understand what is expected of them.  Stubbornness can also be symptomatic of an individual trying to exert control over their lives.  The best way to help someone is to try and find out from him or her what the problem is.

Both women and men with Down's syndrome can be fertile, although both sexes have a reduced fertility rate.  They therefore need advice on, and access to, contraception.  People with Down's syndrome need careful and sensitive advice about having children, as there are a number of issues to consider.  Some people with learning disabilities can successfully parent their children, given the right support.  However, many couples with learning disabilities decide for themselves not to have children because of the responsibility and hard work involved, or for financial reasons.

Where one parent has Down's syndrome, there is a 35% to 50% chance that the child would inherit the syndrome.  This chance is even higher where both parents have Down's syndrome.  There is also a high chance that pregnancy would end in miscarriage.  Women with Down's syndrome are also more likely than other women to have a premature baby, or to need a cesarian section.

Incidence; Causes and Development; Contributing Risk Factors

For every 1,000 babies born, one will have the chromosomal irregularity known as Down's syndrome.  Down's syndrome affects people of all races and social classes, in all countries of the world.

In 1959 Professor Jérome Lejeune proved that Down's syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality.  Instead of 46 chromosomes usually present in each cell, Lejeune noted 47 in the cells of people with Down's syndrome.  It was later determined that this additional chromosomal material (usually caused by triplication of the 21st chromosome) results in the physical characteristics associated with the condition and the different course in development.

As yet we do not know what causes the presence of an extra chromosome 21.  It can come from either the mother or the father.  There is no way of predicting whether a person is more or less likely to make and egg or sperm with 24 chromosomes.

There is a definite link with advanced maternal age for reasons yet unknown.  However, 80% of babies with Down's syndrome are born to women under the age of 35, as younger women have higher fertility rates.  What we do know is that no one is to blame: Nothing done before or during pregnancy can cause Down's syndrome.

Down's Syndrome suggests the following may be present:


Gluten Sensitivity / Celiac Disease

Patients with Down syndrome have an incidence of celiac disease of at least 7 percent. [J Pediatr 1996;128: pp.555-7]

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Down's Syndrome can lead to:


Senile Dementia

Although many people with Down's syndrome do develop dementia in their later years, this is by no means inevitable.  Research indicates that although the incidence of dementia in people with Down's syndrome is similar to that of the general population, it occurs some 20-30 years earlier.

Recommendations for Down's Syndrome:



DMAE improves the behavior and mental function of children afflicted with Down's Syndrome.


Vitamin E

Down's Syndrome is associated with an increased oxidation problem.  Antioxidants such as vitamin E provide protection in such situations.

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Weak or unproven link: may suggest
Weak or unproven link:
may suggest
Strong or generally accepted link: often leads to
Strong or generally accepted link:
often leads to
Moderately useful: often helps with
Moderately useful:
often helps with
Very useful: is highly recommended for
Very useful:
is highly recommended for
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