Edward’s Syndrome

What is Edward’s Syndrome?

Edward’s syndrome is a genetic disorder that creates severe developmental delays in newborn infants and toddlers. As the baby is growing in the mother’s womb, an error can occur during cell division that leads to the production of an extra chromosome in pair 18.

Consequently, the condition is also known as Trisomy 18. Unlike some other genetic disorders that are relatively harmless, Edward’s syndrome frequently creates medical complications that carry a higher fatality rate for newborns. Of the children that are born alive, girls have a better chance of surviving than boys.

What are the Symptoms of Edward’s Syndrome?

There are various screenings and blood tests available that can be done during the mother’s first and second trimester which will assess a baby’s risk of having Edward’s syndrome. Doctors look for several signs, both in ultrasounds and after the baby is born.

Symptoms include

  • Abnormal and/or small shaped head
  • Low birth weight
  • Underdeveloped jaw
  • Absence of testes in boys
  • Failure to thrive
  • Short stature
  • Drooping of upper eyelids
  • Wide space between eyes
  • Episodes of stopped breathing
  • Clenched hands
  • Groin hernia
  • Low-set ears
  • Foot deformities
  • Abnormal finger deviation
  • Life threatening birth defects to organs

Edwards’s Syndrome Causes

Genetics is the only known link to this unusually rare syndrome. However, the condition is seldom inherited and has nothing to do with the parents’ health or what they previously did. The process of developing three copies of chromosome 18 often occurs at random during the formation of a sperm or egg.

Instead of having 23 pairs of chromosomes that carry genetic material inherited from both parents, the child ends up with 23 pairs of chromosomes, plus an additional chromosome strand on chromosome number 18.

Since Edward’s syndrome occurs at random, it is highly unlikely for partners to have more than one pregnancy affected by the condition. Nonetheless, the chances of a baby developing Edward’s syndrome increases as the mother ages.

The extra chromosome disorders normal development and causes severe mental and physical difficulties that cannot allow the child to survive beyond a year after birth.

How is Edward’s Syndrome Treated?

Edward’s syndrome cannot be cured. Unfortunately, there are also no treatments available. Most afflicted children will either be stillborn or die within their first year.

Treatment includes

The best that parents can do is to provide their baby with intensive neonatal and palliative care to try to enhance quality of life.

About ten percent of Trisomy 18 children will survive past their first birthday, and some are able to live for many years after that. There are even adults in their twenties and thirties who are still managing well, although they are unable to live on their own and require the aid of full-time caregivers.

Edward’s Syndrome Prevention

Since the disorder occurs at random, it’s difficult to prevent it. Furthermore, managing the symptoms can be extremely challenging. Expectant mothers only get to be aware of the condition when they are between 10 and 14 weeks pregnant. The disorder will be confirmed after a combined test is done which also screens for Patau’s syndrome and Down’s syndrome.

If doctors confirm that the child does have Edward’s syndrome, they will take the parents through some steps moving forward. One of the options regarding this condition is to either continue with the pregnancy or terminate it with an abortion because of its severity.

Since this is an emotive subject, it would require the parents to talk to their doctor, friends, and family to let out any thoughts and feelings. Most hospitals provide counseling services and support in case your unborn baby is diagnosed with Edward’s syndrome.

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Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
December 19, 2017