MAJOR FEATURES OF FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME (FAS)

From:    Bob Hirschfeld
Subject: Danger: Drinking During Pregnancy

MAJOR FEATURES OF FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME (FAS)
1. Retarded growth and performance postnatally is a standout feature
	of this syndrome.
	  a) Microencephaly - a smaller brain (91%)
	  b) developmental delay or mental deficiency (100%) - occurs in all
		  infants.  IQ's are 35-40 points below normal.
	  c) impaired fine motor function (80%)
2. Craniofacial abnormalities
	  a) short palpebral fissures (100%) - eyes are close together and small
	  b) Epicanthal folds (36%) - small eyes; eyes are a reflection of the
		  brain
	  c) micrognathia (27%) - small teeth
3. Limb abnormalities (73%)
4. Other abnormalities
	  a) cardiac (70%)
	  b) external genitalia (36%)
	  c) capillary (36%)
FAS is the third leading cause of birth defects associated with mental
retardation in the U.S.
The first trimester is thought to be the critical period for morphological
problems while the 3rd trimester is critical for brain effects and mental
retardation.
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from ICEA Review (Aug, 1986):
"Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is defined as a specific set of severe physical
symptoms and mental defects caused by alcohol damage to the developing
fetus. It is estimated that one in every six hundred births may be affected
by FAS.

A diagnosis of FAS should be made only when the infant shows a sign from of
the following three categories:

"Prenatal and/or postnatal growth retardation is defined as an infant of low
birth weight and size, with no catching up later even if the baby is then
well nourished.

"Facial malformations include small, widely spaced eyes; short upturned nose
with a wide, flat bridge; flat cheeks; narrow upper lip lacking a vertical
groove (philtrum); blunt small chin that may appear large and pointed as the
child grows older.

"Central nervous system involvement is characterized by an abnormally small
head and brain (microcephaly), mild to moderate retardation, hyperactivity,
poor coordination, and learning disabilities"

Because alcohol is a teratogen [cancer-causer] that appears to have a wide
spectrum of effects, a second category of defects, Fetal Alcohol Effects,
have been defined. Approximately one in three hundred births may be affected
by FAE. An infant exhibiting FAE may have some of the above congenital
malformations.  In addition, these symptoms may be present:

"Functional disturbances including abnormal sleep patterns and abnormally
high levels of activity (hyperactivity).

"Learning disabilities including mental retardation which cannot be
corrected by early or later intervention; inability to concentrate; behavior
problems related to hyperactivity; speech and language problems.

"Organ abnormalities including heart and kidney defects.

"Alcohol consumption during pregnancy brings a specific set of relative
risks. Studies indicate the pregnant woman who is abusing alcohol is at
greater risk for spontaneous abortion, neonatal depression, low birth
weight, intrauterine growth retardation, anomolies and fetal alcohol
syndrome.  Pregnant women who are chronic abusers run a one in two risk of
giving birth to a baby with some abnormality."


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