Characteristics of Down's syndrome 

Each person with Down's syndrome is affected differently, but most share a number of physical characteristics and developmental problems. 

Physical appearance

People with Down's syndrome often have certain physical characteristics. Not everyone will have all of them, but they may include:

  • reduced muscle tone that results in floppiness (hypotonia)
  • a small nose and flat nasal bridge
  • a small mouth with a protruding tongue
  • eyes that slant upwards and outwards
  • a flat back of the head
  • a big space between the first and second toe (sandal gap)
  • broad hands with short fingers
  • their palm may have only one crease across it (single transverse palmar crease)
  • below-average weight and length at birth

However, it is important to note that people with Down's syndrome do not all look the same.

They will also share physical features with their parents and family.

Delayed development

All children with Down's syndrome have some degree of learning disability and delayed development, but this varies widely between individual children.

Children with the condition may be slower to learn skills such as:

  • reaching
  • sitting
  • standing
  • walking
  • talking

A child with Down's syndrome will gain these skills eventually  it simply takes more time.

Around 1 in every 10 children also experience additional difficulties such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Because of these problems, children with Down's syndrome often require extra support as they grow up and additional help at school.

Read more about living with Down's syndrome.

Health problems

While many children and adults with Down's syndrome have few other health problems, there are a number of conditions that occur more frequently in people with Down's syndrome.

These include problems with the heart and bowel, difficulties with hearing and vision, and an increased risk of infections.

Read more about the possible complications of Down's syndrome.

Further reading

You may find it helpful to read about:

Page last reviewed: 14/01/2015

Next review due: 14/01/2017