Adults with Down Syndrome: Characterization of a Portuguese Sample

Paula Breia, Rosário Mendes, Ana Silvestre, Maria João Gonçalves, Maria João Figueira, Regina Bispo


Introduction: Down syndrome or Trisomy 21 affects physical, behavioral and cognitive development. Ageing people with Down syndrome may suffer from several comorbidities that interfere with their daily life.
Objective: To analyze in a sample of adults with Down syndrome the presence of common medical diseases, regular use of medication, possible cognitive impairment and oral communication skills.
Material and Methods: The socio-demographic and clinical data of 209 Portuguese adults (20-58 years) with Down syndrome were collected. Twenty-six subjects were assessed with the WAIS-III. Data was statistically analyzed - SPSS (v.19).
Results: Almost half (47.36%) of the sample suffers from comorbidities, with cardiac, psychiatric, epilepsy and hypothyroidism ranked as the most prevalent diseases. Seventy-two patients (34.45%) take medication that acts on the central nervous system. The WAIS-III results revealed IQ scores between 45-61 (mean = 49.65, SD = 4.93) and 141 individuals (67.5%) who can express themselves through basic oral language.
Discussion: In line with other studies, these individuals are vulnerable to various comorbidities. Most have basic oral language, but the IQ values are in the ‘extremely low’ range, with better performance on verbal tasks.
Conclusion: The cognitive constraints and communication difficulties in the population with Down syndrome may difficult the early clinical recognition of comorbidities associated with ageing. The identification of new semiology, with caregiver support, is essential to ensure that appropriate care is provided to this population.
Keywords: Adult; Down Syndrome; Comorbidity; Portugal.

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