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Fetal alcohol syndrome

Definition


Disease: Fetal alcohol syndrome Fetal alcohol syndrome
Category: Children diseases

Disease Definition:

FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) is the result of prenatal alcohol exposure. A baby will be at risk of FAS in case the mother was drinking during pregnancy.

 

This syndrome causes irreversible defects and includes serious mental, physical and behavioral problems. These defects vary from child to child.

 

A doctor should be consulted as soon as possible in case parents suspect that their child has FAS. Early diagnosis is vital in order to reduce the risk of problems that are associated with this syndrome such as troubles at school, with the law and with substance abuse.
 

Work Group:


Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms:

FAS is not considered a single birth defect, it’s actually a cluster of related problems and the most severe of a group of consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure. The range of disorder collectively is known as FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders).

 

Although fetal alcohol syndrome is a common cause of mental retardation, however, it’s preventable. Usually, the severity of mental problems varies and some children experience them to a greater degree than others.

 

Some of the signs and symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome could include:

 

  • Sleeping problems
  • Learning disorders
  • Poor coordination
  • Heart defects
  • Hearing problems or vision difficulties
  • Slow physical growth before and after birth
  • Deformities of joints, limbs and fingers
  • Mental retardation and delayed development
  • Small head circumference and brain size (microcephaly)
  • Hyperactivity, extreme nervousness, anxiety, poor impulse control, short attention span or other abnormal behaviors
  • Distinctive facial features, such as small eyes, an unusually thin upper lip, a short, upturned nose and a smooth skin surface between the nose and upper lip

 

The facial features that occur with fetal alcohol syndrome could also occur in normal children and only experts could distinguish normal facial features from those of fetal alcohol syndrome.

 

Sometimes, other terms are used in describing some of the signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. For instance, the mental and behavioral impairments that occur due to fetal exposure to alcohol are called alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders (ARND), while the physical defects that occur from fetal alcohol exposure are called alcohol-related birth defects (ARBDs).

 

A woman should ask her obstetrician or other health care provider for help in case she's pregnant and can’t stop drinking.

In case a woman drank alcohol while she was pregnant she should let her child’s doctor know because early diagnosis is vital in order to reduce the risk of long-term problems for children with FAS. In any case, she shouldn’t wait for problems to arise before contacting a doctor.

 

In the case of providing foster care, or having an adopted child, parents might not know whether their child’s biological mother drank alcohol while pregnant or not, and it might not occur to them that their child might have FAS, however, they should talk with the child’s doctor whenever he/she demonstrates learning and behavioral problems in order to identify the underlying cause.
 

Causes:

When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it enters her bloodstream and reaches the developing fetus by crossing the placenta. The developing baby’s blood alcohol concentrations are higher than those in the mother's body because a fetus metabolizes alcohol more slowly than an adult does. In addition to this, alcohol interferes with the delivery of optimal nutrition and oxygen to the baby’s developing tissues, organs and brain.

 

The risks to the unborn baby will be greater the more a woman drinks while she's pregnant. Even though these risks are present at any time during pregnancy, however, drinking alcohol during the first trimester when these parts of the fetus are in key stages of development could result in the impairment of facial features, the heart and other organs, bones, and the central nervous system. Many women might not be aware that they’re pregnant during the early weeks of the first trimester. At any time during pregnancy, alcohol could affect the brain of the fetus.
 

Complications

Complications:

None

Treatments:

Fetal alcohol syndrome has no specific treatment or cure. Usually, the mental deficiencies and physical defects persist for a lifetime. Surgery may be needed in the case of heart abnormalities. Special services in schools could help with the learning problems. In order to help the family with a child’s behavioral problems, parents could consider counseling.

 

Prognosis:

Not available

Expert's opinion

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