Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)

Posted by e-Medical PPT Saturday, October 23, 2010
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a pattern of mental and physical defects which develops in some unborn babies when a pregnant mother drinks excessive alcohol.The timing and frequency of excessive alcohol during pregnancy are also important with regard to the risk of a child developing fetal alcohol syndrome.
Alcohol crosses the placental barrier and can stunt fetal growth or weight, create distinctive facial stigmata, damage neurons and brain structures, and cause other physical, mental, or behavioral problems.The main effect of FAS is permanent central nervous system damage, especially to the brain. Developing brain cells and structures are underdeveloped or malformed by prenatal alcohol exposure, often creating an array of primary cognitive and functional disabilities (including poor memory, attention deficits, impulsive behavior, and poor cause-effect reasoning) as well as secondary disabilities (for example, mental health problems, and drug addiction). The risk of brain damage exists during each trimester, since the fetal brain develops throughout the entire pregnancy.
Several characteristic craniofacial abnormalities are often visible in individuals with FAS.The presence of FAS facial features indicates brain damage, though brain damage may also exist in their absence.Central nervous system (CNS) damage is the primary feature of any Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) diagnosis. Structural abnormalities of the brain are observable, physical damage to the brain or brain structures caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. Structural impairments may include microcephaly (small head size) of two or more standard deviations below the average, or other abnormalities in brain structure (e.g., agenesis of the corpus callosum, cerebellar hypoplasia).

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