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Dermatologic Manifestations of Down Syndrome

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By: Dr. Rico

This past weekend I was lucky enough to volunteer at an event held by the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida. They hold an annual clinic for children with Down Syndrome and their families. They had numerous physicians there including cardiology, ENT and GI as well as physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. The fair was packed full of families asking great questions! I thought I would take a minute to answer some of the most common questions I was asked.

The most common condition I saw at the health fair and the most common dermatologic manifestation of Down Syndrome reported is dry skin. These children may have extremely severe dry skin that becomes itchy and even breaks out in rashes occasionally. Especially this time of year when it’s cold and dry, parents need to moisturize as much as possible. There are numerous great moisturizers out on the market, but the ones I like the best take out extra fragrances, preservatives and dyes such as Vanicream or Cerave. I also told parents that Vaseline is about the safest thing that can be put on the skin because there are no preservatives or fragrances in it! Moisturizers should be applied twice daily!

Children with Down syndrome are also more likely to have different autoimmune conditions of the skin including Vitiligo and Alopecia Areata. In Vitiligo, the immune system actually attacks the pigment cells so children will start to have new white spots occurring on the body. In Alopecia Areata, the immune system will attack the hair so you may start noticing new patches on the scalp without any hair. A lot of these conditions can be treated in the office with medications and sometimes even light therapy. A newer therapy out is the Excimer laser which many of our patients with Vitiligo are responding well to.

Other conditions seen in children with Down Syndrome are recurrent skin infections. Using antibacterial soaps such as Lever 2000 or bleach baths can really help prevent recurrent infections. Bleach baths require only a ¼ cup of bleach in a whole bath tub—it’s like going in the pool!

Some children may have small growths around their eyes and neck. These are benign lesions called Syringomas. Treatment may be painful and the lesions often recur, so I don’t recommend treating in all kids.

I also saw several children with acne, molluscum and warts which are skin conditions common in all children!