Autism vs Down Syndrome: How can we differentiate

autism vs down syndrome

Autism and downs syndrome are both developmental conditions that occur in both children and adults. They may present in one individual although the causes, symptoms and treatments for both are entirely different.

Autism
This is a condition that affects the behaviour of a child characterized by impaired communication, poor social interactions, impaired body movement and seizures.

It is caused by a number of factors which include;

  • Abnormal brain development. autism vs down syndrome
    The inability of the body to metabolize phenylalanine amino acid a condition known as phenylketonuria due to the absence of enzymes required for the metabolic process.
  • Viral infections of the pregnant mother such as toxoplasmosis that is passed unto the unborn fetus during pregnancy.
  • Inflammation of the brain after birth as a result of an infection caused by bacteria, virus or fungus.
  • Neurodevelopmental conditions of genetic origin that affect nerves and neurons such as fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis.
  • Immunological problems with a compromised immune system and the occurrence of autoimmune disorders.
  • Vaccines such as the influenza vaccine.

There are different types of autism which include;

  • Classic autism which is the most severe form of autism characterized by extreme sensitivity, obsessiveness and self-harm.
  • Mild autism characterized by fewer symptoms and the individual with this kind of autism is able to communicate well with intense focusing on something and sensitivity to noise and even light.
  • High functioning autism characterized by impaired movement but with high intellectual ability.

Down syndrome
This is a condition caused by genetic abnormalities where a child is born with an extra chromosome known as chromosome 21 due to abnormal cell division.
The extra pair of chromosomes is responsible for features such as poor mental capability, delayed speech, delayed movement and impaired physical appearance with a flat face and slanting eyes. Other symptoms include a compromised immune system, hearing problems, vision problems, skin thickening and an elevated number of red blood cells in the body.

Different types of Down syndrome include;

  • Trisomy 21 which is the most common type of Down syndrome.
  • Mosaic Down syndrome where an individual has either two or three copies of the extra chromosome 21.
  • Robertsonian translocation that occurs with chromosomal rearrangements with improper fusing

Although both conditions are not curable, they can be managed by medications and therapy. Medications used for Autism include antidepressants, antipsychotics and anticonvulsants. Other alternative treatments include the use of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins.
Treatment of Down syndrome involves medications such as piracetam and alternative therapy of speech, behaviour and exercise.

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