Children with Down syndrome can have a variety of complications, some of which become more prominent as they get older, including:

  • Heart defects. Approximately half the children with Down syndrome are born with some type of heart defect. These heart problems can be life-threatening and may require surgery in early infancy.
  • Leukemia. Young children with Down syndrome are more likely to develop leukemia than are other children.
  • Infectious diseases. Because of abnormalities in their immune systems, those with Down syndrome are much more susceptible to infectious diseases, such as pneumonia.
  • Dementia. Later in life, people with Down syndrome have a greatly increased risk of dementia. Signs and symptoms of dementia often appear before age 40 in people with Down syndrome. Those who have dementia also have a higher rate of seizures.
  • Sleep apnea. Because of soft tissue and skeletal alterations that lead to the obstruction of their airways, children with Down syndrome are at greater risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Obesity. People with Down syndrome have a greater tendency to be obese than does the general population.
  • Other problems. Down syndrome may also be associated with other health conditions, including gastrointestinal blockage, thyroid problems, early menopause, seizures, hearing loss, premature aging, skeletal problems and poor vision.

Life expectancy

Life spans have increased dramatically for people with Down syndrome. In 1929, a baby born with Down syndrome often didn't live to age 10. Today, someone with Down syndrome can expect to live to 50 and beyond, depending on the severity of his or her health problems.

Apr. 07, 2011