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

  • Heart defects. About 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 have an increased risk of leukemia.
  • Infectious diseases. Because of abnormalities in their immune systems, those with Down syndrome are much more at risk of infectious diseases, such as pneumonia.
  • Dementia. People with Down syndrome have a greatly increased risk of dementia — signs and symptoms may begin around age 50. Those who have dementia also have a higher rate of seizures. Having Down syndrome also increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
  • Sleep apnea. Because of soft tissue and skeletal changes that lead to the obstruction of their airways, children and adults with Down syndrome are at greater risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Obesity. People with Down syndrome have a greater tendency to be obese compared with the general population.
  • Other problems. Down syndrome may also be associated with other health conditions, including gastrointestinal blockage, thyroid problems, early menopause, seizures, ear infections, hearing loss, skin problems such as psoriasis, skeletal problems and poor vision.

Life expectancy

Life spans have increased dramatically for people with Down syndrome. In 1910, a baby born with Down syndrome often didn't live to age 10. Today, someone with Down syndrome can expect to live to age 60 and beyond, depending on the severity of health problems.

Apr. 19, 2014

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