Health conditions associated with aging and end of life of adults with Down syndrome

Int Rev Res Ment Retard. 2010;39(C):107-126. doi: 10.1016/S0074-7750(10)39004-5.


Expectations for the life course of individuals with Down syndrome (DS) have changed, with life expectancy estimates increasing from 12 in 1949 to nearly 60 years of age today (Bittles & Glasson, 2004; Penrose, 1949). Along with this longer life expectancy comes a larger population of adults with DS who display premature age-related changes in their health. There is thus a need to provide specialized health care to this aging population of adults with DS who are at high risk for some conditions and at lower risk for others. This review focuses on the rates and contributing factors to medical conditions that are common in adults with DS or that show changes with age. The review of medical conditions includes the increased risk for skin and hair changes, early onset menopause, visual and hearing impairments, adult onset seizure disorder, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnea and musculoskeletal problems. The different pattern of conditions associated with the mortality of adults with DS is also reviewed.