Down Syndrome | Complications


What are the health problems that might affect my baby?

Some babies who have Down syndrome have poor muscle tone. This makes it harder for them to learn to roll over, sit up and walk. Physical therapy can help with these problems.

About half of babies who have Down syndrome also have a heart problem. An ultrasound exam of your baby's heart will show any defects. Surgery may be necessary to fix the heart problems associated with Down syndrome.

Some babies who have Down syndrome have problems swallowing, or they may have blockages in their intestines. Surgery may be necessary to fix these problems. Once they are fixed, they usually cause no further harm.

Some babies have eye problems, such as cataracts (cloudy lenses) or crossed eyes. Corrective lenses or surgery may be necessary to fix these problems.

Children who have Down syndrome may have colds, ear infections and sinus infections more often than other children. They are more likely to have thyroid problems, hearing loss, seizures and problems in their bones and joints. It's also common for these children to be late in teething.

Will my child have learning problems?

At birth, it isn't possible to tell how smart a baby who has Down syndrome will be. Intelligence ranges from low normal to very retarded (slow to learn) in people who have Down syndrome. If you keep your child physically healthy and provide therapy or treatment for his or her impairments, he or she will be better able to learn. With therapy, many children who have Down syndrome grow up to have jobs and live independently.


See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Some of this content was developed by the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities in CA (USC), MA (UMass Boston), IA (U of IA), KY (U of KY) and supported in part by the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention through a cooperative agreement with Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). The opinions expressed are strictly those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the supporting organizations.

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/14
Created: 01/99