Jacob, a child with Down Syndrome, enjoying a family holiday and browsing in shops, like any other 5 year old child wouldJacob looking at books and watching TV at age 6 years - Down Syndrome doesn't stop normal development, but social attitudes do. - Jacob, a baby with Down Syndrome - Jacob at one year of age

Down Syndrome effect on Health

Down Syndrome effects peoples health in many different ways.

There is increased risk of heart defect, leukemia, eye defect and many other health problems that we talk about below.

By reading this page, you may be able to help your child avoid the health problems caused by Down Syndrome, before any long term harm occurs.

The last section on this health web page on Down Syndrome, relates to the ill health that can be caused by vitamin supplementation or targeted nutrient intervention, that is sometimes used to as a treatment for Down Syndrome – another must read.

Down Syndrome can affect health in many ways, some of the health issues are life threatening and most can occur at any age.

Mothers of new born babies or infants with Down Syndrome, may find our page on what to expect from your new born with Down Syndrome vitally important, in order to help prevent some of the worst health effects of Down Syndrome that may happen to your baby or young child.

Jacob, a child with Down Syndrome, is often prone to catching colds, though his health has improved as he has gotten older.

Here are some of the most common Down Syndrome health issues emedicine mentions and we provide some of our own insights and research updates, plus other Down Syndromehealth issues from other sources:

Eyesight and Down Syndrome health – issue number 1

Eyesight – 50+% of Down Syndrome people have eyesight problems.

Our Insights: Normally requiring eye glasses to be worn. Recent research at the Down Syndrome Research Unit at Cardiff University in the UK, found that a.. 75% of kids with Down Syndrome have trouble focusing their eyes and should be using bifocals and, b… nearly every kid with Down Syndrome sees the world differently to other kids, as they are unable to see things in the same level of detail.

Making things bigger wont necessarily solve the problem either.

It is recommended that kids with Down Syndrome have their vision ability assessed by an advisor or teacher for the visually impaired when they start school ! That way advice can be given to teachers etc about what sort of teaching material etc will work best with your kid with Down Syndrome.

Further, the researchers also found that kids with Down Syndrome tend to have their eye defects for their life time, whereas other kids often out grow eye defects they may have in early life.

Our experience with Jacob’s – he has Down Syndrome – eyesight is confusing, to say the least.

The eyesight was unaffected by Down Syndrome when tested around age 2 years by an experienced eye doctor, who also said he didn’t need to come back as his eyes looked good inside.

Several years later an assessment of vision – not eyesight as such – was undertaken by a specialist.  The assessment took three days to perform – mainly observation and interaction type assessment.  The conclusion of this specialist trained in dealing with the vision impaired, was that Jacob’s sight was good, but he lacked the ability to see details very well, found it hard if the task visually blended in with the back ground and so on.  Otherwise though, his sight was good.

Next assessment by another professional group working with the sight impaired, found that Jacob also had a sight problem and recommended his vision be reassessed.

Vision reassessed, Jacob need glasses.

Cancer, Leukemia and Down Syndrome health – issue number 2

Leukemia – 10 to 15 fold increase. 1 in 150 Down Syndrome kids in particular get this health problem.

Our Insights: We have Jacob routinely screened for the cancer, leukemia, to safe guard his health.

You can imagine the shock when one of Jacob’s acquaintances, with Down Syndrome, who didn’t have such routine checks, was eventually diagnosed with leukemia. What then pursued for this Down Syndrome kid was horrific – he lived, but he lives in a different town to us, so we don’t know how he progressed, but this health calamity set him back developmentally quite a bit.


Interestingly, although individuals with Down syndrome have a high risk of leukemia, they have a considerably reduced incidence of solid tumors.i

In the largest study to date involving 17,800 Down syndrome individuals, the mortality from cancers was <10% of expected.ii Such data indicate that one or more of the 231 trisomic genes on human chromosome 21 is responsible for protecting individuals against cancer.

In other words, the extra chromosome carried by people with Down syndrome harbors a gene responsible for starving tumors of the blood they need to survive and flourish.

Individuals with Down syndrome don’t get solid tumors because tumors need blood vessels to get to the interior of the mass, where cancer cells are already having difficulty getting nutrients.

If you can’t grow more blood vessels to get them that food, cancer cells do starve.

Deirdre A. Hill, et al, year 2003, clarified the situation as to what types of cancers, Down Syndrome people get.

Controlling for age, they found people with Down Syndrome had increased risk of leukemia of the myeloid white blood cells and of the lymphoid white blood cells. Also, individuals with Down Syndrome had increased risk from testicular cancer, liver cancer and stomach cancer.

Raghu Kalluri, PhD, et al., year 2005, found Down syndrome people have more endostatin in their blood, health wise, people with Down Syndrome are therefore found to be the most immune people to getting cancer.

i Patja K, Pukkala E, Sund R, Livanainen M, Kaski M. Cancer incidence in persons with Down’s syndrome in Finland: a population-based study. Int J Cancer 2006; 118: 1769-1772.

ii Yang Q, Rasmussen SA, Friedman JM. Mortality associated with Down’s syndrome in the USA from 1983 to 1997: a population based study. Lancet 2002; 259: 1019-1025.

Infectious diseases and Down Syndrome health – issue number 3

Infectious diseases – Down Syndrome kids and adults have 12 fold chance of getting this health problem.

Our Insight: Obviously hygeine is important to health here and teaching it from an early age to those with Down Syndrome is very important. Another source of infection is bysexual activity or by being sexually abused.

Hypothyroidism and Down Syndrome health – issue number 4

Hypothyroidism – 15 to 20% have it.

Our Insight: Mental retardation can be greatly increased if not controlled correctly and early – blood tests to check for it.

More on Thyroid abnormality and Down Syndrome health

Thyroid abnormality – occurs in 10-20% of Down Syndrome kids and in 25-40% of Down Syndrome adults. Important: Check at birth and at regular intervals for thyroid malfunction. Source: Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas.

Our Insight: My experience says six monthly checks, but the author states yearly in the body of the article.

Jacob has had his thyroid threatened three times because of nutritional diet deficiencies.

If the thyroid is threatened, there is also the real risk it will stop working correctly and cause much greater mental retardation.

We appear to have been lucky with Jacob, as his thyroid appears to have continued to work sufficiently at those time it became threatened.

It was only by routine blood tests that the problems were detected early enough to prevent long term harm.


Heart defects and Down Syndrome health – issue number 5

Heart defects – 40 to 50% of Down Syndrome people have this major health problem.

Our Insight: Heart defects in those with Down Syndrome was one of their greatest killers a few years back, with many dieing within 12 months of birth – provided you catch the defects early enough – through echocardiograms ( stethoscopes and such like can easily miss heart defects ) – and get the required medical intervention to fix the heart defect, then the risk of death is greatly reduced from this, the greatest Down Syndrome health risk.

Neck: Atlantoaxial instability and Down Syndrome health – issue number 6

Neck: Atlantoaxial instability – 14% of Down Syndrome children and adults have atlantoaxial instability.

According to Joseph Hornyak, year 2004, …About 10 percent to 15 percent of people with Down syndrome are at higher risk of cervical spinal cord injury because of neck instability …

Our Insight: Very hard to detect, even by x-ray of the spinal chord in the kneck when kid aged three years.

If someone has this health condition, they risk becoming quadaraplegic – paralysised from the kneck down, if their kneck is suddenly jerked, such as by bouncing on a trampoline.

Jacob loves the trampoline, when we found out this possible Down Syndrome health effect, we were stunned and I immediately supported his kneck when we played on the trampoline.

On a side note to this important health issue for those with Down Syndrome, we were originally told that his kneck was fine following his kneck xrays and we took him home and enjoyed bouncing with him on the trampoline.

Within the next day we found out the xrays were defective and Jacob had to undergo the xraying yet again.  I was really angry, Jacob could have been paralysed because of the incompetence.

Eventually x-rays revealed Jacob did not have this Down Syndrome health condition, what a relief that was. I believe there may be surgery or aids that can be used to help Down Syndrome kids and adults who do suffer from this condition.

Ears and Down Syndrome health – issue number 7

Ears – 66-89% of Down Syndrome kids have a hearing loss of greater than 15-20 dB in at least one ear.

Our Insight: The Down Syndrome health effect on hearing is complicated.

The eustacean tube that drains the ears to the nose is much narrower in those with Down Syndrome and the eustacean tube is angled more horizontally in those with Down Syndrome, which means it doesn’t drain the ears very well at all, creating an environment favoring ill health.

This Down Syndrome health disorder allows germs to breed up from the nose to the ears, causing ear infections.

The ear infections affect hearing in two ways: It can fill the ears with liquid ( which I just told you cannot drain away easily ) so that the person hears things as if they were listening underwater.

The infection can also affect hearing by damaging nerves.

Further, if the child is unable to hear properly in early life, the chances of picking up speech is diminished.

I have an update web page on sinuses, so if you found this a point of interest, you may want to go to that web page as well.

Teeth and Down Syndrome health – issue number 8

Teeth – 50+% of Down Syndrome people have problems with teeth formation.

Our Insight: Teeth may be malformed or grow in wrongly. One common Down Syndrome effect on teeth is pointy teeth. Although it is not absolutely clear, this Down Syndrome effect may go onto impact the health of the teeth through teeth grinding – Bruxism.

The formation of teeth in people with Down Syndrome may also involve one or more baby teeth not wanting to fall out, with the adult teeth then growing out behind or in front of it. If this is caught earlier enough – by checking the insides of the mouth regularly from the time the adult teeth start coming through – the dentist can then remove the baby tooth and allow the adult tooth to start moving into it’s proper position.

Another problem you may encounter with children with Down Syndrome, is that they may grow an extra tooth. Typically this extra tooth will grow behind the adult or baby teeth. The dentist will then normally wait for the tooth to grow through so that it can be extracted.

If your child with or without Down Syndrome has a tooth appear where it shouldn’t, an xray will likely be necessary to identify whether it is an extra tooth or an adult tooth.

Getting your child with Down Syndrome to perform for the dentist

Yes, it can be hard. When Jacob – our son with Down Syndrome – came down with a cavity, he was 9 and half years old. There was a problem with the adult tooth having poor structure, with insufficent tooth strengthening substances within it. So, with some expectation of failure, the dentist placed a child’s bubblegum scented gas mask over Jacob’s nose and mouth, hit him with the laughing gas, drilled out the cavity and filled it.

Jacob performed very well, but so did the dentist and the dental assistant in preparing Jacob for the dental treatment. Explaining and showing him everything.

Next time round things didn’t go smoothly. Jacob refused to go for an xray when we found a tooth where it shouldn’t be, refused to sit in the dentists chair. We got the xray by me staying with Jacob and nicely holding his head in place. We got round the dental chair by having him sit on my lap, while I was on a normal chair.

The next visit is going to require a baby tooth to be pulled out, and it will be interesting.

More on Teeth and Down Syndrome health

Bruxism, more commonly known as teeth grinding – affects nearly all Down Syndrome kids and adults.

Daytime teeth grinding may be more noticable, but night time Bruxism can be much more destructive on the teeth of someone with Down Syndrome.

It becomes a Down Syndrome health problem when the enamel of the tooth becomes compromised through wearing down with bits being chipped off by the constant teeth grinding.

When the enamel is sufficiently damaged, decay and germs can enter the tooth.

The best treatment is to have a night-time mouth guard fitted professionally. The guard protects the teeth from damage by Bruxism, as the material is softer than tooth enamel and wears down instead of the teeth.



I am writing about my grandson, he is losing his teeth, he is 23 yrs old.. his dentist said by Dec he will be having to wear dentures.
He doesn’t want to wear dentures,,,,,why is he losing his teeth? I don’t understand. He’s not on drugs. he brushes them..
The dentist doesn’t know the cause??  or he suspects drugs.. I can honestly say he doesn’t do drugs.. he’s mentally challenged
has no money and doesn’t leave the house… What else could be causing the teeth loss?.




Very hard one.
Teeth problems are common in people with DS. Sometimes the enamel may be just thinner or weaker, allowing things to break down the teeth more rapidly.
Deformities in the teeth can make cleaning very difficlut at times.
www.toothandteeth.com is another of my web sites, have a read through it.  make sure he is cleaning his teeth properly, perahps he is sawing his teeth to destruction or not flossing between his teeth, the latter can easily lead to peridontal and gum disease.
Sometimes the hand coordination in DS can make using a toothbrush difficult.  With Jacob and all of us, we went over to battery operated toothbrushes, as they clean a lot faster and alot better I feel.

Then there is bruxism, teeth grinding, if that is happening, he may well lose his teeth – bruxism teeth guards are discussed on the toothandteeth website.

Periodontal disease and gum disease could also do that, but are treatable conditions, though the procedure is painful and expensive.

Some places to start looking, maybe not the right places, but somewhere to start anyway.  It may even be a mixture of several of the factors.  Perhpas even a medication he takes.
My suggestions anyway,
Kind regards,


Psychiatric disorders and Down Syndrome health – issue number 9

Psychiatric disorders – “…among Down Syndrome kids, 17.6% have this health issue, while among Down Syndrome adults it is 27.1% that have these health issues. Down Syndrome Kids and adolescents are at a higher risk for autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and conduct disorder. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette syndrome, and depressive disorder may occur during the transition from adolescence to adulthood…”

Our Insight: There appear to be a variety of treatment options available.

I haven’t heard of any one treatment that works for everyone, but some parents are claiming that diet may play a big part with the health of Down Syndrome kids and are suggesting Down Syndrome kids may benefit from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet – SCD.


Seizure disorder and Down Syndrome health – issue number 10

Seizure disorder – 5-10% of Down Syndrome kids and adults come down with this health disorder.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Down Syndrome health – issue number 11

Alzheimer’s Disease – About 10% will show Alzheimer’s disease symptoms before age 30 years. About “…25% before they are 50, and about 75% before they are 70 years old. Women generally, get it earlier and more severely, but less prevalently. Men get it later in life and less severely, but more men have it…”. Source: Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas.

We have devoted also devoted a five page website to the topic of Alzheimer’s Disease and multi-infarct Vascular dementia, should you be interested.

If your kid has autism, Secretin Therapy may substantially benefit him (40% apparently respond to this therapy with very substantial improvements – I mention this as we are friends with a family afflicted with autism and know how important is for science to resolve this as well – also some kids with Down Syndrome come down with autism and this may be of interest to them and their families).

Manic-Depressive Psychosis is also showing promising results with a specialised Targeted Nutrient Intervention.


Hemorrhoids / Hemroids and Down Syndrome health – issue number 12

Although there are no precise statistics readily available, hemroids are anticipated to be a common problem confronting many people with Down Syndrome.  This is because Down Syndrome and the way people interact with those with Down Syndrome, sets up a life style which is known to commonly cause hemroids.

The causes being poor diet, being over weight and lack of exercise.

Although not an uncommon condition, hemroids treatments are often difficult to apply, particularly if they internal hemroids, while hemroids surgery often entails a level of pain and suffering.

There are non-surgical treatments for hemroidsnatural treatmentsherbal treatments and many home remediesthat can help with hemroids, along with hemroids medications.


Cholesterol and Down Syndrome – issue number 13

Similar to hemorrhoids and Down Syndrome above, cholesterol problems can impact on the health of those with Down Syndrome, because the life style of poor diet, being overweight and lack of exercise are known to be significant causes of cholesterol problems, specifically high cholesterol problems and too little of the good cholesterol.

Obviously treating the causes of high cholesterol or too low good cholesterol is the way to go. Cholestrol Diet changes can be implemented, weight loss exercise programs instigated and following ourbest weight loss program may help to.

You can also choose specific foods known to lower cholestrol naturally.

But these last two expected Down Syndrome health issues are lifestyle related, they can be corrected before they become a problem



Down Syndrome health – Treatment issue number 1

The danger of the TNI, vitamins and antioxidant approach on the health and well being of those with Down Syndrome:

It can be very dangerous to use megadoses of antioxidants.

Vitamin E in megadose form over a long period can be poisonous.

Excessive antioxidant intake also has been found to reduce the uptake of other important vitmains and so can lead to vitmain deficiency, particularly in the B vitamins.

Our Insight: Avoid megadosing, check the concentrations of vitamins etc against recommended daily doses.

We have also devoted two whole BIG web pages to the discussion of Down Syndrome Vitamin treatments and the drawbacks of Down Syndrome vitamin treatment.

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