Fetal alcohol syndrome – Pictures, Facts, Symptoms, Treatment
FAS or Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition that is caused due to alcohol consumption at the time of pregnancy. The syndrome can result in a variety of abnormalities such as varied physical defects, mental retardation, learning disabilities, disturbances of sight, and behavioral problems.
The number and severity of deficits associated with fetal alcohol syndrome can vary from one affected child to another. It is also important to note that such abnormalities cannot be undone in any way.
There are no safe amounts of alcohol that can be taken during pregnancy. Expectant women who engage in intake of alcohol are placing the infant at increased vulnerability to developing fetal alcohol syndrome.
It is important for parents of babies with fetal alcohol syndrome to seek immediate medical care. Early diagnosis may aid in decreasing the risk to some related problems like drug abuse and learning difficulties.
Symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome
There is no single distinguishing congenital anomalous feature associated with fetal alcohol syndrome. It refers to a group of abnormalities, and is the most severe condition as compared to the varied other disorders that arise due to prenatal alcohol exposure.The cluster of disorders is collectively known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASDs.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the major causes of mental retardation. It is however possible to prevent it. The intensity of mental deficits may differ among affected children, wherein one child may elicit a higher degree of mental anomalies as opposed to some other affected infant.
A few common symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome are listed below:
- Slow physical development before and after birth
- Presence of distinctive facial features such as small eyes; a visibly thin upper lip; a short and upturned nose; and occurrence of silky smooth skin between the nose and the upper lip.
- Achievement of developmental milestones such as crawling, walking, talking, etc., may be delayed.
- Hearing defects and vision troubles
- Possible deformation of the fingers, limbs, and joints
- The head circumference is generally smaller than usual. Doctors may diagnose microcephaly or small brain size
- Behavioral disorders such as absence of a continuous attention span, hyperactivity, anxiety, unregulated impulses, and excessive nervousness or fidgetiness
- Poor coordination
- Heart defects
- Learning deficits and difficulties
- Mental retardation
It is important to remember that normal and healthy children may also have facial characteristics that are similar to those linked to fetal alcohol syndrome. Parents must therefore consult specialists who have the technical expertise to distinguish between normal and abnormal facial features.
Doctors may use varying terminologies to describe a few symptoms of FAS. Alcohol related birth abnormalities refer to physical deformities that occur due to exposure of the fetus to alcohol, while alcohol related neuro-developmental disorders are mental or behavioral deficits that occur due to exposure of fetus to alcohol.
Causes of fetal alcohol syndrome
Fetal alcohol syndrome is caused due to intake of alcohol during pregnancy. The risk to development of FAS in the unborn child keeps on increasing with an increase in the level of alcohol consumption. Such risk is present during all stages of pregnancy.
It may be noted that the central nervous system, facial features, heart, bones, and other vital organs develop during the first trimester of pregnancy. Hence, alcohol consumption during this period can result in defects of the above listed body systems. Many women are rarely aware of their pregnant status during the first few weeks of the 1st trimester. Therefore women who are trying to get pregnant must abstain from alcohol, a lot in advance. Also, women who believe that they are pregnant must immediately stop drinking.
Doctors are not aware about the quantity of alcohol that needs to be consumed during pregnancy for the baby to develop fetal alcohol syndrome. It is however widely known that more instances of alcohol intake during pregnancy increases the likelihood of the baby getting affected by fetal alcohol syndrome.
Treatment of fetal alcohol syndrome
Fetal alcohol syndrome has no known cure. Treatment focuses on alleviating and managing the many symptoms, as well as preventing the development of complications.
A few treatment options for varied defects associated with fetal alcohol syndrome are as follows:
- Physical therapy can help reduce the severity of problems arising from the presence of physical deformities and defects
- Heart problems as well as physical malformations can be rectified through varied surgical procedures.
- Counseling, behavioral therapies, and psychotherapy can help overcome the social, behavioral, and emotional shortcomings in patients.
- Children affected by fetal alcohol syndrome are prone to alcohol and drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, etc. It can be prevented by offering them a strong social and family support system. This will also help the children succeed in academics.
The only way to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome is by abstaining from intake of alcohol during pregnancy. Sexually active women have a greater chance of becoming pregnant without planning. Hence they have to be extra vigilant.