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Down Syndrome

Have you ever caught yourself staring at an individual you believed to be retarded or handicapped? Maybe you snickered under your breath when one of them made a funny noise that caught you off guard. Im sure many of us have been in a situation similar to these and know the guilty feeling you get inside when you react in such a manner to their actions. I think most of our guilt comes from pity and our reactions come from the lack of knowledge on the topic.

People tend to ignore what they do not understand and Im writing this to hopefully change how some people think. Down syndrome is a condition that cant be physically passed from one person to the next. It is a genetic condition in which there is an extra chromosome in the cells of a babys body. This extra chromosome results most often from abnormal cell division of the egg before conception. It can also occur in the sperm before conception of a baby or in the fertilized egg after conception. A Down syndrome child will have 47 chromosomes instead of the normal 46. The chromosomal error can be found on chromosome 1, which is why they call it trisomy 1. Why the cells divide in an abnormal way is not known.

Minor cases of Down syndrome may leave a person with different physical features but have such little affect on their thinking process, its almost unnoticeable. However, there are more severe cases in which an affected person will most likely end up being reliant on someone else for their entire lives. Although Down syndrome has been around for centuries in the human race, no cure has been discovered. Affected people have a wide variety of treatments to cope with the disease and live life as normal as possible.

Another aspect of Down syndrome is mild to moderate mental retardation. Down syndrome is the leading genetic cause of mental retardation in the United States. Special schools can help individuals with the genetic disorder learn basic skills needed in the real world, and physical therapy can help with the reduced muscle tone (hypotonia) that is experienced in most cases.

Doctors have done extensive research on this disease over the years and have made some very important findings that are making life easier for these individuals and the families that take care of them. An amniocentesis can be used to detect any chromosomal abnormality before the baby is even born! Unfortunately, 0% of mothers (or mothers to be) use this knowledge for abortion. In some ways, I feel abortion is an option for those parents that are unsure of their commitment and longing for a child even if the child in not perfect. On the flip side, it is a human life. It is said that one out of every 700 babies will be born with Down syndrome. However, these odds may very depending on the paternal age of the mother. A child born to a woman 5 years of age has approximately a 1 in 100 chance. A child born to a woman 40 years of age and over has a 1 in 10 chance. Leukemia is also a factor in that Down syndrome patients are more likely to develop the disease than normal people.

Although doctors are still unsure where or how Down syndrome originated, extensive studies have revealed many helpful tips in making these peoples lives as best as possible. Before todays studies, Down syndrome patients were put in mental institutions because people didnt know how to help them. Several heart defects associated with Down syndrome were never diagnosed years ago causing more infants with Down syndrome to die. Now infants are tested with echocardiograms before they are born to help detect the heart defects early so heart surgery can be performed to prolong their life. Today, some of those that are handicapped are living individually and making a good living.

In conclusion to my studies, Down syndrome is a rare, yet present condition that can be found in all parts of the globe. Most people look at the individuals who have the condition and tell themselves how lucky they are to not have to go through what some of them do. From some standpoints, this is true to all of us. But how many people will actually take the time to better understand the situation and actually see what makes them as special as any normal human being. It is human nature to ignore or criticize the unknown, this will always be true to a certain point. Just as the truth will always remain the same in that these people are beautiful human beings that deserve the same respect and rights as anyone else.

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