Positive thinking
John Cronin, who has Down Syndrome and is co-founder of John's Crazy Socks, an online sock store that donates a percentage of its sales to charities that help others with disabilities, smiles at their headquarters in Melville, New York, U.S., July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is celebrated annually on March 21 to bring global awareness about down syndrome, a condition in which a child is born with an extra 21st chromosome.

The 21st day of March (the 3rd month of the year) was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome.

The day has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012.

Theme for 2023 World Down Syndrome Day

The theme for World Down Syndrome Day 2023 is "With Us Not For Us." The Down Syndrome International network (DSi) seeks to establish a human rights-based approach to disability. They are campaigning for the right to legal capacity, supported decision-making and easy-to-understand communication.

The members of the DSi will be hosting the 12th World Down Syndrome Day Conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a lifelong genetic condition that causes developmental and intellectual delays in individuals. The genetic disorder occurs when abnormal cell division results in extra genetic material from chromosome 21.

Chromosomes are DNA molecules found inside the nucleus of a cell. They determine how a baby's brain and body develops during pregnancy and after birth.

What causes Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is congenital, which means that it is present at birth. The condition is established during conception and can be diagnosed during pregnancy.

Usually, babies are born with 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes, which is referred to as chromosome 21. The medical term for having an extra copy of a chromosome is "trisomy," therefore, Down syndrome is also known as Trisomy 21.

There are three types of Down syndrome known as Trisomy 21, Mosaic Down syndrome or Mosaicism, and Translocation.

Women who are 35 years or older are more likely to experience a pregnancy affected by Down syndrome. A family history of Down syndrome or another chromosomal disorder in a parent or sibling is also considered a risk factor for Down syndrome.

Symptoms associated with the condition

People diagnosed with Down syndrome can experience both physical and cognitive difficulties, however, the severity of the condition varies from person to person. Many people living with Down syndrome can lead happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Some physical characteristics of Down syndrome are as follows:

  • Flattened facial features
  • Almond-shaped eyes that slant upwards
  • Small head and ears
  • Short neck
  • Tongue sticking out of mouth
  • Poor muscle tone or loose joints
  • Shorter in height as children and adults

Some individuals with Down syndrome could be born with one or more serious birth abnormalities or other conditions. Some of the most common health issues that affect children with Down syndrome are:

  • Abnormal lung development
  • Learning difficulties
  • Weakened immunity
  • Hypothyroidism (low function of the thyroid gland)
  • Hearing loss
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Ear infections
  • Eye diseases
  • Heart defects present at birth

Individuals with Down syndrome typically have mildly to moderately low IQs. They are also more likely to develop dementia later in life. Moreover, those with Down syndrome are more vulnerable to infections.

Available treatment for Down syndrome

There's no cure for Down syndrome, however, there are a wide variety of support and educational programs that can help people diagnosed with the condition and their families.

The earliest available programs start with interventions during infancy. These programs can help the child learn and improve their sensory, social, motor, and cognitive abilities, and aid in building important life skills. Schooling also plays a vital role in helping the child develop the required day-to-day skills.