March 21 is observed as World Down Syndrome Day, and that’s when people raise awareness about Down syndrome. It is not a very common disorder, but according to United Nations, approximately 3,000 to 5,000 kids are born with this chromosome disorder every year worldwide. Down syndrome affects the growth and malfunction of many organs, including the eyes. Read on to find out about the link between Down syndrome in children and vision problems.
HealthShots connected with Dr Amit Gupta, Consultant Paediatrics,
Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, to find out about Down syndrome.
What is Down syndrome?
It is a congenital condition which is caused by a chromosome disorder and is present before birth. Dr Gupta says that it is something that we have no control over. However, it is possible to detect it early, the at is before birth of the child. During a visit to your gynaecologist, disclose your family history in detail. In case there is a direct relation to any related disorder, your gynaecologist will decide the precautionary tests that can be done. The risk of having a child with Down syndrome will increase if the mother is above the age of 35.
Do children with Down syndrome always need glasses?
Down syndrome will affect the growth of many organs and may cause them to malfunction like the eyes. However, you cannot generalise that kids with Down syndrome will have an eye problem, says the expert. Children with Down syndrome are more prone to get an eye problem, but not all of them will require glasses.
Some of the eye problems in children with Down syndrome are:
- Refractive error. It would be present in up to 50 to 80 percent of these children, says the expert. Most of them would have astigmatism or myopia, in which cases these kids might need eye glasses for correction.
- Others may have problems related to squint eyes.
- There can be eyelid-related problems like upwards slant of the eyelids or an additional epicanthal fold near the nose (it is when the skin of the upper eyelid covers the inner corner of the eye).
- Few children may have dancing eyes called nystagmus.
- Few other may have loss of vision in one or both eyes.
- There are also possibilities of having cataract, retinal abnormalities and the eye nerve abnormalities that can add to the problems.
Not 100 percent of kids with Down syndrome will require eye treatment or glasses, but yes as they grow up their underlying diseases can affect their eyes.
Kids who already have an eye problem or are wearing glasses will require regular check ups of their eyes and follow-up with their doctor.
The following can be helpful too –
• Regular eye drops
• Eye hygiene
Doctors avoid advising lenses for children with Down syndrome until they are properly trained or have some understanding of how to use them properly.
Other difficulties that children with Down Syndrome face
Eyes are not the only organ which get affected by Down syndrome. Dr Gupta says that one third of such children will have some level of heart problem as well. Children with Down syndrome will be slow learners, and their growth potential is also affected. Their weight gain is slower, but the best part is that children with Down syndrome are happier in nature and most of them love music.
Mothers do struggle to accept this problem, but the sooner they except, the better the outcome of life will be. However, certain things like exercise may help kids with Down syndrome. Yoga can also help children with Down syndrome to improve quality of life.
The fact remains that children with Down syndrome will require special care, and it is not easy to treat them as they are very sensitive. That’s exactly why family support is very important.