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Turner syndrome facts
*Turner syndrome facts by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
- Turner syndrome is a chromosomal condition related to the X chromosome that alters development in females, though it is not usually inherited in families.
- Symptoms of Turner syndrome are:
- Women who have Turner syndrome have a slightly higher risk of having an under active thyroid or developing diabetes.
- Many girls are diagnosed with Turner syndrome in early childhood when a slow growth rate and other features such as webbed neck, a broad chest, and widely spaced nipples are identified. Sometimes diagnosis is made at birth because of heart problems, an unusually wide neck, or swelling of the hands and feet.
- Treatment for Turner syndrome includes growth hormone injections and estrogen replacement therapy.
What is Turner syndrome?
Turner syndrome is a chromosomal condition that alters development in females. Women with this condition tend to be shorter than average and are usually unable to conceive a child (infertile) because of an absence of ovarian function. Other features of this condition that can vary among women who have Turner syndrome include: extra skin on the neck (webbed neck), puffiness or swelling (lymphedema) of the hands and feet, skeletal abnormalities, heart defects and kidney problems.
This condition occurs in about 1 in 2,500 female births worldwide, but is much more common among pregnancies that do not survive to term (miscarriages and stillbirths).
Turner syndrome is a chromosomal condition related to the X chromosome.
Researchers have not yet determined which genes on the X chromosome are responsible for most signs and symptoms of Turner syndrome. They have, however, identified one gene called SHOX that is important for bone development and growth. Missing one copy of this gene likely causes short stature and skeletal abnormalities in women with Turner syndrome.
What are the symptoms for Turner syndrome?
Girls who have Turner syndrome are shorter than average. They often have normal height for the first three years of life, but then have a slow growth rate. At puberty they do not have the usual growth spurt.
Non-functioning ovaries are another symptom of Turner syndrome. Normally a girl's ovaries begin to produce sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) at puberty. This does not happen in most girls who have Turner syndrome. They do not start their periods or develop breasts without hormone treatment at the age of puberty.
Even though many women who have Turner have non-functioning ovaries and are infertile, their vagina and womb are totally normal.
Girls with Turner Syndrome are usually of normal intelligence with good verbal skills and reading skills. Some girls, however, have problems with math, memory skills and fine-finger movements.
Additional symptoms of Turner syndrome include the following:
- An especially wide neck (webbed neck) and a low or indistinct hairline.
- A broad chest and widely spaced nipples.
- Arms that turn out slightly at the elbow.
- A heart murmur, sometimes associated with narrowing of the aorta (blood vessel exiting the heart).
- A tendency to develop high blood pressure (so this should be checked regularly).
- Minor eye problems that are corrected by glasses.
- Scoliosis (deformity of the spine) occurs in 10 percent of adolescent girls who have Turner syndrome.
- The thyroid gland becomes under-active in about 10 percent of women who have Turner syndrome. Regular blood tests are necessary to detect it early and if necessary treat with thyroid replacement.
- Older or over-weight women with Turner syndrome are slightly more at risk of developing diabetes.
- Osteoporosis can develop because of a lack of estrogen, but this can largely be prevented by taking hormone replacement therapy.
How is Turner syndrome diagnosed?
A diagnosis of Turner syndrome may be suspected when there are a number of typical physical features observed such as webbed neck, a broad chest and widely spaced nipples. Sometimes diagnosis is made at birth because of heart problems, an unusually wide neck or swelling of the hands and feet.
The two main clinical features of Turner syndrome are short stature and the lack of the development of the ovaries.
Many girls are diagnosed in early childhood when a slow growth rate and other features are identified. Diagnosis sometimes takes place later when puberty does not occur.
Turner syndrome may be suspected in pregnancy during an ultrasound test. This can be confirmed by prenatal testing - chorionic villous sampling or amniocentesis - to obtain cells from the unborn baby for chromosomal analysis. If a diagnosis is confirmed prenatally, the baby may be under the care of a specialist pediatrician immediately after birth.
Diagnosis is confirmed by a blood test, called a karyotype. This is used to analyze the chromosomal composition of the female. More information about this will be discussed in the section "Is Turner syndrome inherited?"
What is the treatment for Turner syndrome?
During childhood and adolescence, girls may be under the care of a pediatric endocrinologist, who is a specialist in childhood conditions of the hormones and metabolism.
Growth hormone injections are beneficial in some individuals with Turner syndrome. Injections often begin in early childhood and may increase final adult height by a few inches.
Estrogen replacement therapy is usually started at the time of normal puberty, around 12 years to start breast development. Estrogen and progesterone are given a little later to begin a monthly 'period,' which is necessary to keep the womb healthy. Estrogen is also given to prevent osteoporosis.
Babies born with a heart murmur or narrowing of the aorta may need surgery to correct the problem. A heart expert (cardiologist) will assess and follow up any treatment necessary.
Girls who have Turner syndrome are more likely to get middle ear infections. Repeated infections may lead to hearing loss and should be evaluated by the pediatrician. An ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) may be involved in caring for this health issue.
High blood pressure is quite common in women who have Turner syndrome. In some cases, the elevated blood pressure is due to narrowing of the aorta or a kidney abnormality. However, most of the time, no specific cause for the elevation is identified. Blood pressure should be checked routinely and, if necessary, treated with medication. Women who have Turner syndrome have a slightly higher risk of having an under active thyroid or developing diabetes. This should also be monitored during routine health maintenance visits and treated if necessary.
Regular health checks are very important. Special clinics for the care of girls and women who have Turner syndrome are available in some areas, with access to a variety of specialists. Early preventive care and treatment is very important.
Almost all women are infertile, but pregnancy with donor embryos may be possible.
Having appropriate medical treatment and support allows a woman with Turner syndrome to lead a normal, healthy and happy life.
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Is Turner syndrome inherited?
Turner syndrome is not usually inherited in families. Turner syndrome occurs when one of the two X chromosomes normally found in women is missing or incomplete. Although the exact cause of Turner syndrome is not known, it appears to occur as a result of a random error during the formation of either the eggs or sperm.
Humans have 46 chromosomes, which contain all of a person's genes and DNA. Two of these chromosomes, the sex chromosomes, determine a person's gender. Both of the sex chromosomes in females are called X chromosomes. (This is written as XX.) Males have an X and a Y chromosome (written as XY). The two sex chromosomes help a person develop fertility and the sexual characteristics of their gender.
In Turner syndrome, the girl does not have the usual pair of two complete X chromosomes. The most common scenario is that the girl has only one X chromosome in her cells. Some girls with Turner syndrome do have two X chromosomes, but one of the X chromosomes is incomplete. In another scenario, the girl has some cells in her body with two X chromosomes, but other cells have only one. This is called mosaicism.
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SOURCE: National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health
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Top Turner Syndrome Related Articles
AmniocentesisDuring an amniocentesis, a sample of the amniotic fluid is taken to screen for certain birth defects (Down's syndrome, neural tube defects, spina bifida, cystic fibrosis), lung maturity of the fetus, infection, or chromosome analysis. Amniocentesis is recommended for women giving birth after the age of 35.
Diabetes MellitusDiabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent). Symptoms of diabetes include increased urine output, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. Treatment of diabetes depends on the type.
Ear InfectionMiddle ear infection (otitis media) is inflammation of the middle ear. There are two forms of this type of ear infection, acute and chronic. Acute otitis media is generally short in duration, and chronic otitis media generally lasts several weeks. Babies, toddlers, and children with a middle ear infection may be irritable, pull and tug at their ears, and experience numerous other symptoms and signs. Treatment depends upon the type of ear infection.
Genetic DiseaseThe definition of a genetic disease is a disorder or condition caused by abnormalities in a person's genome. Some types of genetic inheritance include single inheritance, including cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Marfan syndrome, and hemochromatosis. Other types of genetic diseases include multifactorial inheritance. Still other types of genetic diseases include chromosome abnormalities (for example, Turner syndrome, and Klinefelter syndrome), and mitochondrial inheritance (for example, epilepsy and dementia).
High Blood Pressure Hypertension
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a disease in which pressure within the arteries of the body is elevated. About 75 million people in the US have hypertension (1 in 3 adults), and only half of them are able to manage it. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure because it often has no has no warning signs or symptoms.
Systolic and diastolic are the two readings in which blood pressure is measured. The American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for high blood pressure in 2017. The guidelines now state that blood normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. If either one of those numbers is higher, you have high blood pressure.
The American Academy of Cardiology defines high blood pressure slightly differently. The AAC considers 130/80 mm Hg. or greater (either number) stage 1 hypertension. Stage 2 hypertension is considered 140/90 mm Hg. or greater.
If you have high blood pressure you are at risk of developing life threatening diseases like stroke and heart attack.
REFERENCE: CDC. High Blood Pressure. Updated: Nov 13, 2017.
Hormone TherapyEstrogen therapy, estrogen/progestin therapy, and hormone therapy are terms that refer to the administration of estrogen or estrogen/progestin for the purpose of suppressing hot flashes. Side effects of hormone therapy include:
- breast pain,
- blood clots,
- breast cancer,
- heart disease,
- abnormal vaginal bleeding,
- and uterine cancer.
Infertility QuizWhat is the medical definition of infertility? Take the Infertility Quiz to learn the risks and treatment of infertility. Our answers may surprise you!
Infertility TreatmentLearn about infertility symptoms and types of treatment such as IVF, acupuncture, and natural methods to get pregnant. Read about infertility in men and women as well as treatment costs and success rates.
PubertyThe time when boys and girls begin the process of sexual maturation is called puberty. During this time, both sexes undergo a series of biological changes that include a rapid increase in height, bone growth, weight increase, the growth of pubic hair, breast development and the onset of menstruation in girls, and testicle, penis, and muscle enlargement in boys.
ScoliosisScoliosis causes an abnormal curvature of the spine. When the cause of scoliosis is unknown the disorder is described based on the age when the scoliosis develops (infantile, juvenile, or adolescent idiopathic scoliosis). In functional scoliosis, curvature develops due to a problem somewhere else in the body. With neuromuscular scoliosis, there is a problem when the bones of the spine are formed. Treatment typically involves observation, bracing, and surgery and is dependent upon the severity of the curvature.
Trying to Conceive
Trying to get conceive, or become pregnant can be challenging, frustrating, and an emotional rollercoaster for some couples. A couple can chart their progress, which may ultimately lead to a successful healthy pregnancy, or, when necessary, lead to discussions with a fertility specialist. If you're a woman, be aware of your menstrual cycle, and you can track when you are fertile during the month using the:
- Basal body temperature method
- Calendar method
- Ovulation method (cervical mucus)
About 10% of women in the US have problems getting pregnant, or carrying a pregnancy full term. Both men and women can have fertility problems. In fact, men and women each contribute about 1/3 when it comes to fertility problems. The other 1/3 are caused by a mixture of problems with both men and women or other problems that aren't identifiable.
UltrasoundUltrasound (and ultrasonography) is imaging of the body used in the medical diagnosis and screening of diseases and conditions such as:
- heart valve irregularities,
- carotid artery disease,
- heart disease,
- kidney stones,
- liver disease,
- diseases of the female reproductive, and
- diseases of the male reproductive organs.