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What are the Traits of Down Syndrome?

By Melanie Smeltzer
Updated May 17, 2024
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Down syndrome is caused by an excess of genetic material in certain cells and often results in cognitive and physical impairment. Certain traits of Down syndrome are characteristic of this condition and can include flattened areas of the head and face, upturned eyes, and small or malformed features. Mental and psychological traits can vary from person to person, but some people may experience a delay in language development and adaptive thinking, while others may experience certain psychological conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or depression.

Many of the most obvious traits of Down syndrome include physical characteristics. These attributes may be mild to severe and may be more apparent in some than in others. Head and facial features such as a small mouth and ears, larger head size and tongue, as well as flattened areas at the back of the head and across the bridge of the nose are common in this condition. Fingers and toes may be comparatively short, and there may also be a larger than normal gap between big and second toes and a slight curve to the pinkie fingers. Other physical characteristics may include a single, deep crease on the palms of the hands, light spots on the irises of the eyes, and a marked shortness of limbs and neck.

Cognitive, or mental, traits of Down syndrome are often displayed as delays in normal childhood milestones. It is thought that all people born with this condition have some amount of mental retardation; however, the severity will vary by individual. Many people with Down syndrome will likely have some delay in developmental milestones and may not begin to walk, speak, or read at the same rate or time as other children. Although it is not true of every individual, some may also display certain habits or behaviors, such as talking to him or herself or resisting change.

Though not specific traits of Down syndrome, certain medical and psychological issues are thought to be aggravated by the condition. Adults are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, while adults and children may experience psychological issues including OCD, depression, and anxiety disorders. Gastrointestinal and hearing problems, skin conditions, and frequent infections are other issues that some may experience.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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