About one in every 7,500 to 20,000 people around the world suffer from Williams syndrome. It’s a condition, which is usually noticeable at birth due to the unique facial features of the affected newborns. It persists throughout the life of the individual, even though a lot can be done to ensure that affected persons lead fairly normal lives.
What causes Williams syndrome?
Williams syndrome comes about due to accidental deletion of genetic information during fetal formation. This results in incomplete development of certain components of the brain and body. No strong cause-effect connection has yet been established for the condition up to now; therefore, giving birth to a child with Williams syndrome is thought to be purely coincidental. Research, however, has shown that if parents with the syndrome give birth, there is a 50 percent chance that their children will also suffer from the condition.
Symptoms of Williams Syndrome
A child born with Williams syndrome is usually underweight and has what people describe as an “elfin” face. These signs are accompanied by other behavioral as well as physical health complications, both inside and outside the body.
The face of a person suffering from this condition is characterized by a flat nose bridge, wide mouth, a pronounced upper lip, and an upturned nose. This uneven pronouncement tends to overshadow other facial features in children, but as they grow to adulthood, it becomes less apparent.
The insides of the mouths of these individuals may also bear certain signs of Williams syndrome. Spaces between the teeth tend to be wider than usual, and often times, their tooth count never reaches 32. Patients of Williams syndrome may also have defective enamel and might experience bone weakness because their bodies cannot metabolize calcium efficiently. Due to frequent vomiting, acid reflux, and calcium absorption problems among other factors, these patients are likely to suffer from tooth rot, especially when they do not observe stricter dental hygiene.
In addition, delayed learning is a common problem for patients of Williams syndrome. Complex movement skills such as writing and drawing take time to learn. Children with this condition therefore need special attention in class in order to keep ahead with others. Even in adulthood, to achieve their highest potential in life, patients need professional and community support.
Apart from the physical signs mentioned above, patients of Williams syndrome also have behavioral characteristics that distinguish them from the general population. Some of these are rather harmless and, in fact, may give them advantage over other people in social situations. Others, however, can pose danger to the individual, hence the need for proper monitoring as well as guidance from parents and other caretakers.
The outgoing personalities of these individuals, for instance, are worth envying. Patients of Williams syndrome tend to have overly charming personalities, which easily endears them to people and enables them to make new friends easily. While they struggle with limb balance issues, they are surprisingly good with words, and can hold long conversations. Majority of them also have a wide voice range, and this makes them efficient singers. They also tend to have a special interest in music.
However, the fact that they get along with everyone also means that they have to try and fit into everyone’s clique, and this might mean doing everything another person tells them to do, without caring about the consequences. This makes them more vulnerable to abuse. Delinquency rates among children suffering from this condition has also been found to be higher than those of, say, autistic children.
Common Health Complications
Poor development of internal passages may cause affected persons to experience breathing, digestive and circulatory disorders. Due to problems with internal ear structures, a section of Williams syndrome patients are also allergic to noise. Even sounds that are non-disruptive to the normal ear can cause a lot of discomfort to such people.
Some patients of Williams Syndrome have highly sensitive skins that may deny them comfort in normal environments and even prevent them from socializing adequately. Children with elevated skin sensitivity, for instance, will avoid being carried, especially by strangers. They also become irritable if they wear dirty clothes or if they are placed in messy surroundings. As adults, such individuals tend to show exceptional preoccupation with hygiene.
Heart conditions are also common with these patients, especially due to errors in the development of blood vessels. At some point, and without proper medical intervention, lumen in the arteries may completely get blocked, thereby preventing blood flow. This possibility is usually detected early in infanthood after plenty of tests and relevant treatment regiments administered to keep it at bay.
Wiliams Syndrome – Life Expectancy
Generally, people with Williams syndrome rarely achieve the life expectancy of the general population. Most deaths arise from heart and digestive system complications, some of which could be delayed with proper medical care and family support.
Filed in: Conditions