Dr Yashim Andrew, a haematologist at the National Hospital, Abuja, made this assertion in Abuja on Thursday when he spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Down syndrome is a condition in which a foetus develops an extra chromosome while developing in the womb.
Chromosomes are small “packages’’ of genes in the body. They determine how a baby’s body forms during pregnancy and how the baby functions as it grows in the womb and after birth.
Typically, a baby is born with 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes, chromosome 21.
This extra copy changes how the baby’s body and brain develop, which can cause both mental and physical challenges for the baby.
“While doctors don’t know what causes it, they do know that women at 35 years and older have a higher chance of having babies with Down syndrome.
“The possibility of the condition actually increases as women get older before having children,’’ he said.
Andrew said early intervention, inclusive education, as well as appropriate research were vital to the growth, development, and showcasing the potentials of persons with Down syndrome.
A Fellow of the West African Post Graduate College of Laboratory Scientists, Andrew said early detection and management “will give persons with Down syndrome a better chance to reach their full abilities and live meaningful lives’’.
He said that Down syndrome might have many effects varying from one person to another and that it might make victims have issues with thinking, reasoning and understanding.
“Down syndrome affects victims in different ways. Doctors know, however, that the earlier children with Down syndrome get healthcare, the more likely they are to live up to their full potential,’’ he said.
“They learn and pick up new skills throughout their whole lives, but may take longer to reach important goals like walking, talking, and developing social skills,’’ he added.
The haematologist explained that people with Down syndrome were likely to have health problems such as hearing loss, heart and vision problems, obstructive sleep apnoea, blood conditions, dementia and infections.
Andrew advised pregnant women to undergo some tests to detect any complications in their babies, ensure healthy lifestyle, and avoid intake of drugs or chemicals that might harm the foetus.