Fetal alcohol syndrome

Am Fam Physician. 1994 Oct;50(5):1025-32, 1035-6.


The most notable features of fetal alcohol syndrome involve the face and eyes, and include microcephaly, short palpebral fissures, an underdeveloped philtrum and a thin upper lip. Evidence of intrauterine or postnatal growth retardation, mental retardation or other neurologic abnormalities, and at least two of the typical facial features are necessary to make the diagnosis. Newborns with the syndrome may be irritable, with hypotonia, severe tremors and withdrawal symptoms. Mild mental retardation, the most common and serious deficit, and a variety of other anomalies may accompany fetal alcohol syndrome. Sensory deficits include optic nerve hypoplasia, poor visual acuity, hearing loss, and receptive and expressive language delays. Atrial and ventricular septal defects, as well as renal hypoplasia, bladder diverticula and other genitourinary tract abnormalities, may occur. Complete abstinence during pregnancy is recommended, since alcohol consumption in each trimester has been associated with abnormalities, and the lowest innocuous dose of alcohol is not known.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / epidemiology
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / physiopathology
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / therapy
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy