It occurs in one in 730 live births in the United States, and approximately 400,000 U.S. families have a child with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is caused by having an extra copy of chromosome 21, and typically involves intellectual impairment, congenital heart disease, characteristic physical features and altered growth, said Erica Labar, a pediatrician with UofL Physicians who specializes in this condition.

The risk of a child having Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother; and diagnosis can be made as early as the first trimester of pregnancy.

There can be a wide range of symptoms among people with Down syndrome. Early intervention and health care improvements have had a tremendous impact on the quality of life for patients and their families.

All states are required to provide early intervention services to qualifying children. This includes physical therapy for motor development, speech and language therapy, and occupational therapy to develop and master skills for independence. Parents are also taught how to interact with their child, meet their needs and enhance their development.

Down syndrome babies also will typically achieve the same milestones as other children, just on their own timetable due to specific challenges associated with development, Labar said.

For more information on Down syndrome, call Labar at the Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre at 502-852-7170, or call your family health care provider. Other excellent resources include Down Syndrome of Louisville and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Editor’s Note: UofL Today reprints To Your Health articles from the “UofL Physicians-Insider” newsletter. Read the entire October issue (opens as a PDF document) for more information.