Some 30 years ago, an individual diagnosed as having Down syndrome was only expected to live to age 25. Today, thanks to increased research and corresponding medical treatments, individuals with Down syndrome are expected to live to age 60 or older. This statistic alone proves the important role that increased funding, research and education has played in improving the overall health and lives of individuals diagnosed with genetic disorders like Down syndrome.
Today, an estimated 400,000 people in the U.S. are living with Down syndrome. The roots of the genetic condition stem from the existence of an extra partial or full set of chromosomes. Normally, each cell is comprised of 23 pairs of chromosomes. For individuals with Down syndrome, they have an extra "full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21".
While all individuals with Down syndrome are unique, all do share certain characteristics including low muscle tone, a slant to the eyes and some variance of cognitive delays. Additionally, individuals with Down syndrome are more prone to having or developing other potentially problematic medical conditions including heart defects, respiratory problems, thyroid conditions and childhood leukemia.
There is no cure for Down syndrome, but individuals with the disorder are readily able to obtain an education, get a job and live happy and fulfilling lives. In order to ensure for a child's future success, parents are advised to provide a loving and healthy environment that provides ample stimulation and support.
Much like individuals without an extra pair of chromosome 21, individuals with Down syndrome have varying cognitive abilities. For children with more severe delays, special or increased treatments may be necessary. For adults with more pronounced delays, finding a job may be difficult. Thankfully parents and adults impacted by Down syndrome can apply to receive Social Security disability benefits to help offset financial difficulties.