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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: An Under-recognized But Increasing Problem

Adult with FASAccording to a special issue of the International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), children born with FASD may be on the rise in coming years. Unfortunately, the group of conditions that result from consuming alcohol during pregnancy remains an under-recognized issue.

FASD refers to a group of life-long conditions caused by a women drinking alcohol during pregnancy in which exposure to alcohol causes damage to the central nervous system of the fetus as well as other systems and organs. FASD manifests differently from individual to individual. Some common features of FASD include abnormal facial features such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip, small head size, poor coordination, learning disabilities, speech and language delays, low IQ, sleep and sucking problems during infancy, vision or hearing problems, and problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are completely preventable by abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy.

The special issue of the International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research aims to increase awareness of the negative effects of alcohol during pregnancy as well as improve prevention, treatment, and care for individuals living with FASD.

Unfortunately, FASD is not well-recognized in most countries.

States guest editor Dr. Svetlana (Lana) Popova, Senior Scientist in the Social and Epidemiological Research Department at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH):

“In most countries, FASD is not well recognized by health professionals. If FASD were addressed more consistently and effectively at the policy and program level, this would alleviate its burden on individuals with FASD and their families, who require intensive support from health, social and remedial education services, as well as on society as a whole.”

In fact, despite evidence from the past 40 years, FASD is not officially recognized as a medical diagnosis and was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) in 2013 only in the appendix as a condition warranting further research. Additionally, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) recognizes only Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), one type of FASD.

The authors of the special issue also believe that FASD will increase in coming years because of ncreasing rates of alcohol use, binge drinking and drinking during pregnancy among young women around the world as well as the fact that the majority of pregnancies in both developing and developed countries are unplanned.

Argues Dr. Chambers, Professor of Pediatrics and Family and Preventive Medicine at UCSD, “FASD should be recognized as a growing public health issue, as alcohol’s harmful effects on a fetus represent many cases of preventable disability globally. The collection of research studies in this special issue clearly demonstrates the need for such recognition.”

Another recent study suggests that women who consume alcohol at moderate or heavy levels in the early stages of pregnancy might damage the growth and function of the placenta.

References

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: http://www.cdc.gov/features/fasd/
An under-recognized issue that may be on the rise: fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/274287.php

Image Credits

Adult with FAS: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fetal.jpg

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Grammatical Form of English Interjections

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