Down Syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

What is the prognosis for someone with Down syndrome?

With increased understanding of potential underlying illnesses associated with Down syndrome and with increased support within the community for patient and family, quality of life for the patient has increased in recent years. There is great variability in mental function between patients, but for those with the appropriate mental capacity, the ability to complete an education, live, and work independently.

Down syndrome patients tend to age more quickly and are prone to developing Alzheimer's disease, often as young as age 40. Those patients who maintain their mental capacity tend to have a longer life span. A poorer prognosis is found in those patients who develop dementia, lose their ability to perform daily physical activities, and those who have decreased vision.

What is the life expectancy for someone with Down syndrome?

Because of the many physical complications associated with chromosomal abnormalities, many fetuses with trisomy 21 fail to develop properly and are miscarried. There is an increased risk of infant death in the first year of life because of congenital heart disease (failure of the heart to develop normally) and respiratory infections.

Given the challenges in the infant years, patients with Down syndrome have experienced increased life expectancy as recognition and treatment of underlying medical conditions improve. A person with Down syndrome can expect a life span of 50 years and more, depending upon the severity of underlying medical issues.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/22/2016

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