6 Physical Signs Of FAS

Women who drink alcohol while they are pregnant can give birth to infants with FAS, or fetal alcohol syndrome. The syndrome is part of a spectrum of disorders known as FASD, or fetal alcohol syndrome disorders, an umbrella term for a wide range of symptoms that vary from mild to severe and may be mental or physical. Types of FASD include FAS, partial fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder, alcohol-related disorder, and neurobehavioral disorder associated with exposure to prenatal alcohol.

FAS is a severe form of the disorder. Babies with FAS may develop problems with vision, memory, or hearing, or they may have attention, learning, or communication difficulties. FAS is incurable but treating symptoms like vision or learning disabilities as soon as possible decreases their impact on a child’s life. Disabilities vary from person to person in symptoms and severity. Researchers think that drinking in the first trimester does the most damage, but alcohol is not safe at any time during a pregnancy. The heavier the drinking, the greater the risk.

When a mother-to-be drinks, some of the alcohol crosses the placenta and reaches the fetus. Because alcohol is more concentrated in a developing baby than in an adult, it can cut off the supply of nutrition and oxygen to the vital organs.Children with FAS need consistent and stable environments to live their best lives. If they are exposed to abuse or violence, they are prone to developing the same issues themselves later in their lives. Although there are no medications for FAS, there are drugs that target some of the symptoms. Among these are medications for depression, anxiety, attention deficit, and aggression. Counseling or behavioral training may also be helpful.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

1. Distinctive Facial Features

A child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder may have distinct facial features that include one or more of the following:

• Smooth philtrum, or area above the lip

• Thin upper lip

• Upturned nose

• Flat nasal bridge and midface area

• Epicanthal folds

• Small palpebral fissures

• Small head circumference

To diagnose FAS, doctors follow a set of guidelines. For the doctor to assess the thinness of the upper lip and the smoothness of the philtrum, the person with FAS needs to have relaxed facial feature because a smile can change the measurements. That area is assessed on a scale from one to five, with five being the most severe. Scores of four and five indicate the presence of FAS.

One of the most important keys to a FAS diagnosis is an epicanthal fold, which is a fold in the skin of the upper eyelid that covers the inner corner of the eye. It is not unusual to see an epicanthal fold in very young children, people of Asian descent, or people with Down syndrome.

The palpebral fissure refers to the space between the open eyelids. This area is smaller than average in people who have FAS. Individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome often have an underdeveloped upper portion of the ear parallel to the crease below. This is called a railroad track.