Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
What is fetal alcohol syndrome?
Fetal alcohol syndrome is a characteristic pattern of mental and physical birth defects that results from the maternal use of alcohol during pregnancy. The range and the severity of the associated abnormalities can vary greatly from case to case, but the characteristic features of fetal alcohol syndrome are growth delays (before and after birth), skull and craniofacial malformations, and brain abnormalities.
What causes fetal alcohol syndrome?
Maternal alcohol use during pregnancy results in multiple effects on the developing embryo and fetus, including fetal alcohol syndrome. The more alcohol consumed during pregnancy, the more severe the symptoms of the condition.
What are the symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome?
Common findings associated with fetal alcohol syndrome include the following:
- Low weight and height
- Increased irritability
- Increased sensitivity to sounds
- Abnormal muscle tone
- Dysfunction of the fine motor skills, including tremulousness, weak grasp, and poor hand-eye coordination
- Smaller-than-average head circumference (microphelay)
Fetal alcohol syndrome is also a leading cause of mental retardation.
In addition to these, fetal alcohol syndrome may also be associated with certain facial features, such as the following:
- Short eyelid folds
- Vertical skin folds that cover the inner corners of the eyes
- Short, upturned nose with a broad nasal bridge
- Thin upper lip
- Small jaw
- Flattened mid-facial regions
- Eye abnormalities, such as unusually small eyes and drooping of the upper eyelids
How is fetal alcohol syndrome diagnosed?
The earlier the diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome, the better, so it is very important for mothers to let their doctors know if they drank during pregnancy. Once the baby is born, a physical examination can show signs of the condition, and as the baby matures, other features may become prevalent that will eventually confirm a diagnosis. These are: abnormal facial features, slower than normal growth, and central nervous system problems.
What are the available treatments for fetal alcohol syndrome?
Treatment of fetal alcohol syndrome is generally symptomatic and supportive because there is no way to reverse the effects of the condition. Special services are beneficial, including special education, speech therapy, physical therapy, and/or other social services. Medications such as antidepressants, stimulants, neuroleptics, and antianxiety drugs can also be prescribed to help address any behavioral and intellectual complications.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is fully preventable if the mother abstains from drinking alcohol while pregnant.
Where can I find more on fetal alcohol syndrome?