We have been very fortunate that Marty’s physical challenges have not been life-threatening. There are conditions to check for through out his life but in the meantime the following are what he deals with currently.
NO TEAR DUCTS
One of Marty’s physical challenges is that he was born without tear ducts. The purpose of the tear duct is to act as a kind of tiny drain for the eye. The tear ducts excrete excess fluid from the eye, sending the extra lubrication into the nasal cavity. Marty had two surgeries before he turned one to repair his nasolacrimal ducts. During the first surgery the surgeon tried to place tubes but he could not find the opening. The second surgery included an ENT specialist who found that Marty’s nasal cavity structure did not make room for tear ducts. So Marty has consistent tears and mucous drainage from his eye.
LOW MUSCLE TONE
Marty is all boy, He travels miles, climbs chair mountains and throws innumerable pitches in a day. Yet he does not gain muscle strength in his little legs and arms. He wears ankle braces with his shoes to help his stride. Hypotonia is very common in children with Down Syndrome. Marty’s physical therapists have helped him work on his gross motor skills since he was a baby. Marty has also received help with his fine motor skills from occupational therapists.
When Marty concentrates or is tired his tongue pops out of his mouth. He is so cute. The tongue might be considered one of the strongest muscles in our bodies, it is not just one muscle, but four muscles. The muscles in the tongue, cheeks, and lips assist with speech so the low muscle tone makes it harder learning to talk. Marty does receive speech therapy to help him.
CONGENITAL HEART DEFECT
It was a congenital heart defect found in utero that idenitified all was not perfect with the baby. Marty had the second most common congenital heart defect for Down Syndrome, Atrial Septal Defect or ASD. Marty had a small hole in the atrium ventricle that would possibly close on its own. We were ecstatic when the heart specialist said Marty would not have to have surgery and he did not have to return until three years later.
The thyroid, located in the throat, is the largest endocrine gland in the body. The thyroid secretes a wide array of hormones that regulate metabolism, heart rate, and growth. Marty has hypothyroidism, the thyroid is not producing sufficient amounts of hormones. He takes medication daily and has to be tested every year to ensure the thyroid is working correctly.
At times, Marty looks flushed, his cheeks are red and dry from atopic dermatitis, common in children with Down Syndrome.This is a condition where the child has a dry, red, and scaly rash usually on the cheeks, arms, legs, or trunk. The skin should be treated with moisturizers and mild soaps or soap-free cleansers (such as Cetaphil) should be used to clean the skin.
Many different medical conditions are seen with Down Syndrome, including:
- Birth defects involving the heart, such as an atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect
- Dementia may be seen
- Eye problems, such as cataracts (most children with Down syndrome need glasses)
- Early and massive vomiting, which may be a sign of a gastrointestinal blockage, such as esophageal atresia and duodenal atresia
- Hearing problems, probably caused by regular ear infections
- Hip problems and risk of dislocation
- Long-term (chronic) constipation problems
- Sleep apnea (because the mouth, throat, and airway are narrowed in children with Down syndrome)
- Teeth that appear later than normal and in a location that may cause problems with chewing
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Compression injury of the spinal cord
- Gastrointestinal blockage
- Weakness of the back bones at the top of the neck