Some children with Down's syndrome have very few health problems as a result of their condition. Others will need extra medical care and attention.
Your child will usually need to be checked by a paediatrician more often than other children to pick up developing problems as early as possible.
If you have any concerns about your child's health, talk to your GP, health visitor, or paediatrician.
Around half of children with Down's syndrome are born with a congenital heart defect.
The most common defect to affect children with Down's is a septal defect. This is a hole inside one of the walls that separate the four chambers of the heart, often referred to as a "hole in the heart".
If your baby is diagnosed with Down's syndrome, their heart will be carefully checked to spot any problems as soon as possible. They may need surgery to repair the heart if a problem is found.
Lots of people with Down's syndrome have some sort of problem with their digestive system. Constipation, diarrhoea and indigestion are all more common.
More serious problems may include:
- small bowel obstruction, which stops food passing from the stomach into the large bowel
- coeliac disease – a condition where a person has an adverse reaction to gluten
- reflux – bringing up milk during or shortly after feeding
- imperforate anus – where a baby is born without an anal opening
- Hirschsprung's disease – where the bowel is unable to push poo along and out
Lots of people with Down's syndrome have problems with their hearing. This is often temporary, but it can sometimes be permanent.
A build-up of fluid in the middle ear (glue ear) is a common cause of temporary hearing problems in children with Down's syndrome.
If your child has glue ear, they'll usually be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
Many people with Down's syndrome also have problems with their eyesight and often need to wear glasses.
Common eye problems include:
- short-sightedness – where distant objects appear blurred
- long-sightedness – where nearby objects appear blurred
- eye infections, such as conjunctivitis, uveitis or blepharitis
- cataracts – where the transparent structure that sits just behind your pupil (the lens) clouds over
- nystagmus – where the eyes move uncontrollably, usually from side to side
- keratoconus – where the clear outer layer at the front of the eyeball (the cornea) becomes thin and bulges out
- glaucoma – increased pressure in the eye
Around 1 in 10 people with Down's syndrome have problems with their thyroid gland. This is responsible for controlling your metabolism, the rate at which your body uses up energy.
Most people with Down's syndrome who have a problem with their thyroid have hypothyroidism, which means their thyroid gland is underactive.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland can include:
- lack of energy
- weight gain
- slow physical and mental reactions
Hypothyroidism is usually picked up by blood tests. It can usually be treated with medication to replace the lack of thyroid hormone in the body.
People with Down's syndrome are more likely to develop infections, such as the lung infection pneumonia. This is because the body's natural defence against infection (the immune system) hasn't developed properly.
As well as routine childhood vaccinations, your child may be offered extra vaccinations, such as the annual flu jab, to help protect them from infections.
If your child develops a bacterial infection, a course of antibiotics will usually be prescribed to treat it.
People with Down's syndrome tend to develop dementia at a younger age, usually from about the age of 40 onwards. But not everyone with Down's syndrome will develop it.
Possible signs of dementia include problems with short-term memory and understanding, confusion, and disorientation.