Down's Syndrome Scotland - Learning Resources

Childhood Gastrointestinal Disorders

It is important to be aware of the greater incidence of feeding difficulties and gastro- intestinal developmental anomalies in babies and children with Down’s Syndrome.

Conditions more commonly seen include:

  • Constipation
  • Oesophageal (airway), duodenal and small bowels atresia or stenosis (narrowing)
  • Hirschsprung disease (abnormal development of the large bowel)
  • Coleliac disease (dietary intolerance to gluten)
  • Gastro-oesphageal reflux (acid reflux)

    Key Point

    There is a strong association between Down’s Syndrome and Coeliac Disease (allergic to gluten) with a prevalence of around 5%. Symptoms in children and adults include growth failure, malaise (tired), vomiting, abdominal swelling, diarrhoea and constipation. Blood samples may also show low levels of anaemia (iron), or calcium deficiency.


    Adult Gastrointestinal disorders

    Adult conditions that are more commonly seen include:

    • Gastro-oesophageal reflux
    • Constipation
    • Diarrhoea
    • H Pylori infection (helicobacter pylori bacteria)
    • Coeliac disease (allergic to gluten)

    These problems can present with changes in behaviour or wellbeing and without subjective report of symptoms. It is important to be aware of their increased likelihood and that there may be significant delays at times between the onset of problems and their presentation to health services.


    Quick Quiz

    Which is a common gastrointestinal problems in adults?

    H.polyori infection
    All of the above

    How would you know if a person with Down's Syndrome was having gastrointestinal problems

    There would be a change in their usual behaviour
    They would be happier
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