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World Down Syndrome Day 2023: Mumbai-based experts bust five misconceptions about the genetic disease

Updated on: 07 April,2023 09:01 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Nascimento Pinto |

Every year, March 21 is celebrated as World Down Syndrome Day to raise awareness about the genetic condition and about people who live with it. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions around it and two Mumbai experts bust them for you

World Down Syndrome Day 2023: Mumbai-based experts bust five misconceptions about the genetic disease

Every year, March 21 is celebrated as World Down Syndrome Day. Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: istock

Living with the Down Syndrome is not easy and can be challenging not only at home but also in the classroom and even in adult life. While many family members and friends of those who live with it are considerably more aware of the disease, others do not know much about it and often let their ignorance get the better of them. They may often have a bias towards people with Down Syndrome and thus treat them differently.

Every year, March 21 is celebrated as World Down Syndrome Day to raise awareness about the disorder and the people living with it. Incidentally, the 21st day of March was chosen to represent the triplication of the 21st chromosome that leads to the syndrome in people.

So, what is Down Syndrome? Dr Sandeep Mehta, pediatrician at Bhatia Hospital in Mumbai explains, "We have 46 chromosomes i.e 23 pairs of chromosomes, one pair from the mother and the other pair from the father. 22 pairs are known as Autosomes and 1 pair is known as sex chromosome. In Down Syndrome, chromosome number 21 instead of two in number becomes three in number that is one extra 21st chromosome, that is known as trisomy 21 which is Down Syndrome.”

This extra chromosome, Mehta says, most likely comes from mother but can also come from father. “This condition can be picked up in 8 to 12 weeks of the pregnancy and basically depends on the maternal age of the mother. The higher the age of the mother there are more chances of developing Down Syndrome due to which division of the gametes becomes slightly defective with older age,” he adds.

It is for this reason that doctors always conduct an antenatal diagnosis by doing either triple marker or sonography in the fetus to find out if there are signs of Down Syndrome.

What are the causes of Down Syndrome?

Mehta says there are three types: Nondisjunction, translocation and mosaic.

Nondisjunction: Normally when the gametes are formed from an ovum, the chromosomes are divided into equal numbers. Here, instead of forming an equal number of chromosomes one more chromosome comes in one the gamete from either one of the parents.

Translocation: Here one chromosome gets attached to another chromosome which goes to the baby

Mosaic: It occurs when the additional chromosome replicates in some cells of the body. This type of Down syndrome has few characteristics and symptoms or partial features of the condition.

With every disease, there comes a set of misconceptions that spread, and people often believe them:

Dr Sapna Bangar, psychiatrist (Specialist - Child and Adolescent), head, Mpower Centre Mumbai said these are the common ones that people have about the genetic condition:

People with Down Syndrome are always happy

While people with Down's Syndrome can be joyful and sociable, they experience the same range of emotions as anyone else. They can feel sad, angry, and frustrated just like everyone else.

People with Down Syndrome are all the same

Each person with Down Syndrome is unique and have their own personality, likes and dislikes. They can have a range of abilities and talents and should not be judged based on stereotypes or assumptions.

People with Down Syndrome can't learn or go to school

People with Down Syndrome can learn and benefit from education, just like anyone else. They may require more support and accommodation in the classroom, but with the right resources, they can succeed academically and socially.

People with Down Syndrome are a burden on their families

People with Down Syndrome can bring immense joy and love to their families, just like any other family member. While they may require extra care and support, this does not make them a burden.

People with Down Syndrome are always sick

While people with Down Syndrome can have certain health conditions that are more common in their community, such as heart defects or vision problems, many people with Down's Syndrome are healthy and live full and active lives.

Dr Bangar concludes that it's important to remember that people with Down Syndrome are individuals with their own unique experiences, perspectives, and abilities. “They should be treated with respect and dignity, and not defined by their condition.”

Read More: These 5 personalities with Down Syndrome prove that nothing is impossible

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