Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition that is associated with intellectual disability, a characteristic facial appearance, and weak muscle tone (hypotonia) in infancy. All affected individuals experience cognitive delays, but the intellectual disability is usually mild to moderate.
Most cases of Down syndrome result from trisomy 21, which means each cell in the body has three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two copies.
Down syndrome occurs in about 1 in 700 newborns. About 5,300 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year, and approximately 200,000 people in this country have the condition. Although women of any age can have a child with Down syndrome, the chance of having a child with this condition increases as a woman gets older.
Most cases of Down syndrome are not inherited. When the condition is caused by trisomy 21, the chromosomal abnormality occurs as a random event during the formation of reproductive cells in a parent. The abnormality usually occurs in egg cells, but it occasionally occurs in sperm cells. An error in cell division called nondisjunction results in a reproductive cell with an abnormal number of chromosomes. For example, an egg or sperm cell may gain an extra copy of chromosome 21. If one of these atypical reproductive cells contributes to the genetic makeup of a child, the child will have an extra chromosome 21 in each of the body's cells.
Published Date: June 01, 2020Published By: National Institutes of Health