With the World Syndrome Day ending last Thursday, neuropsychiatric expert, Dr. Suraj Adeyemo, tells MOTUNRAYO ABODERIN that the government needs to pay more attention to persons living with the condition.
How can Down syndrome be described?
Down syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs because of an extra chromosome. When a baby is conceived, it inherits genetic material from its parents. The genetic material is usually transferred to the baby in the form of 46 chromosomes – 23 from each parent.
It is caused by a fault with a chromosome called the 21 chromosome. In most cases of Down syndrome, a child inherits an extra 21 chromosome, meaning that the child inherits 47 chromosomes instead of 46. When a person’s genetic make-up is unbalanced in this way, it can affect their physical and mental characteristics.
How can pregnant mothers be free from the condition?
One of the predisposing factors is late age of pregnancy for women who are 35 and above. Women who have early pregnancy are at a lower risk of having babies with Down syndrome. A 35-year-old woman has a one in 338 chance and a 45-year-old woman has a one in 32 chance.
However, approximately 80 per cent of babies with Down syndrome are born to mothers above the age of 35. This is because women under this age make up the majority of the child-bearing population in the world.
Is this condition common in Nigeria?
It is very common here in Nigeria. There are a number of them at the YABA Child and Adolescent Psychiatric wing, Akoka, Lagos State. Also, world data has shown that for women between the ages of 20 and 35, at least one in every 2000 births will be a Down syndrome child. Then for women who are 45 and above, one in every 30 births would be a Down syndrome child.
Is there a cure for it?
There is no cure for this condition; the goals of Down syndrome treatment are to control symptoms and manage any resulting medical conditions. This condition presents so many problems in the area of education and cerebral development. These children are special children who need to be nurtured to live an independent life.
Can a child with Down syndrome function like a normal child?
The level of functioning is dependent on their level of learning disability or intelligence quotient. Development of children with Down syndrome tends to be slower than that of other children of similar age.
They may also be slower to develop socially and mentally. For example, it might take them longer to learn, to speak, or to read. All people with Down syndrome will have some degree of learning disability, although some people are more severely affected than others.If your child has Down syndrome, it will not stop them from developing at all. Many people with the condition can still learn all of the physical, mental, and social skills that most other people acquire; they just do it at a different pace.
How does this condition affect the child?
One of it is their IQ. The child is unable to have a good education or live a dependent life. It also affects their social life and the occupational aspect of their life. The child also undergoes some health impediments which include thyroid problems, hearing problems , congenital heart disease, eye problems, seizure disorders , bone, muscle, nerve, or joint problems, leukemia and other cancers, immune system problems , developmental delay and mental retardation. These are just a few; there are many other health conditions.
Is there sufficient awareness about Down syndrome in Nigeria?
because their child has Down syndrome but because of other conditions such as the child not being able to talk, read or socialise. They only get to know that their child has Down syndrome after the doctor confirms the condition to them.
To create awareness, people must know how a Down syndrome baby looks like. The physical features includes eyes which slant upwards, small ears, flat back of head, protruding tongue, small mouth, flattened nose bridge, white spots on the iris, short fingers and other features.
Furthermore, people must educate themselves on the causes, prevention and identity. This can be done by inculcating it into school activities, through the media or through health talks. Education is key. Some people are still not aware of the condition.
What can the government do to help people living with this condition?
First, the government should create more awareness using different mediums. Also the government can support and subsidise treatment for persons with Down syndrome. These people should be entitled to free heath care because it’s a life time condition. The government should also create sociable support, academic support and also a centre for early detection, especially for mothers who know they are at risk.