11 Minutes

November 14, 2021 by THE BALANCE
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Adults who have foetal alcohol syndrome experience a number of challenges. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a collection of signs and symptoms that develop in the womb as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. FAS is an illness that is one of a group of disorders known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). FASD is a blanket term that refers to a wide range of issues that might arise in a child whose mother drank alcohol while pregnant.

In this article, we will begin by determining what Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is and the effect it has on mother and child. We will then move on to ascertain the symptoms, after which we will glance at the effects these symptoms have on adults. We will also name a few famous personalities who have suffered from FAS. Towards the end, an account of how the syndrome is diagnosed will be given. 

Foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a condition in which foetal 

birth malformations are caused by alcohol. In other words, it’s a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by alcohol abuse. 

Prenatal alcohol intake is linked to a neurobehavioral problem. The most severe foetal alcohol spectrum disorder is foetal alcohol syndrome. When a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, a set of birth abnormalities can occur. 

Physical issues, as well as behavioural and learning issues, might occur as a result of these impacts. A person with FASD frequently has a combination of these issues. 

FASD is a catch-all name for a variety of conditions. These illnesses can range in severity from moderate to severe, and they can result in physical and mental birth abnormalities. FASDs come in a variety of forms, including: 

FAS is a particularly severe type of disease. FAS patients may experience difficulties with their vision, hearing, memory, attention span, and learning and communication abilities. While the faults differ from person to person, the damage is frequently permanent.

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There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to consume while pregnant. If you drink while pregnant, your kid is at risk of developing foetal alcohol syndrome.

Because a baby’s liver isn’t fully matured in the womb to process or break down alcohol, it can readily reach and harm the baby’s organs. 

Alcohol enters your system and crosses the placenta to reach your developing foetus. Because a foetus metabolises alcohol slower than an adult, alcohol creates higher blood alcohol concentrations in your developing baby than in your body. 

The transport of oxygen and optimum nourishment to your developing baby is hampered by alcohol. 

Prenatal alcohol exposure can disrupt your baby’s tissue and organ development, as well as cause lifelong brain damage.  The greater the risk to your unborn child, the more you drink while pregnant. Any amount of alcohol, on the other hand, puts your kid in danger. The brain, heart, and blood vessels of your baby begin to develop.

When a pregnant woman drinks during the first trimester, when the baby’s brain is still developing, some of the most serious complications occur. However, the second and third trimesters are not without risk. The brain is still maturing at that time, and even moderate doses of alcohol can cause this process to be disrupted.

There are no specific figures for the number of people who have FASD. FASD, on the other hand, is thought to be three times more common than FAS, according to scientists. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 0.2 to 1.5 incidences of FAS occur in every 1,000 live births in some parts of the US. According to other studies, the rate of FAS cases per 1,000 live births ranges from 0.5 to 2.0. 

In 2002, the lifetime cost of caring for one person with FAS was estimated to be $2 million, with an annual expenditure of more than $4 billion in the United States.

It is advised to consult your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect your child has foetal alcohol syndrome. Early detection may aid in the reduction of issues such as learning challenges and behavioural issues.

Because foetal alcohol syndrome encompasses such a broad range of issues, there are numerous possible symptoms. These symptoms range in severity from mild to severe. Depending on whether symptoms are present, different labels are used to describe FASDs. 

Depending on whether symptoms are present, several labels are used to define the FASDs. Physical defects, intellectual or cognitive abnormalities, and difficulties functioning and coping with daily life are all possible signs and symptoms of foetal alcohol syndrome.

Adults with FAS frequently experience mental health issues, which affect 90 per cent of those diagnosed with the disease. The following are some of the issues: 

  • Attention, distraction, learning, and memory issues 
  • Problems with decision-making and planning 
  • Aggression is an example of an issue that can be externalised. 
  • Depression, anxiety, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are examples of internalising difficulties. 
  • 44% of adults with FAS suffer from depression.
  • 40% of people suffer from psychotic symptoms. 
  • Anxiety affects 20% of people. 
  • Bipolar disorder affects 20% of people.

Many of FAS’s physical repercussions last into adulthood. Adults, on the other hand, may not notice these impacts as much as youngsters. The following are some of the physical symptoms of FAS that can endure until adulthood: 

  • Small stature 
  • The Head size is small. 
  • Upper lip that is thin 
  • Brain size-reduction 

Adults with FAS frequently experience mental health issues, which affect 90 per cent of those diagnosed with the disease. 44% of adults with FAS suffer from depression. 40% of people suffer from psychotic symptoms. Anxiety affects 20% of people. Bipolar disorder affects 20% of people.

People with FAS can display any number of the following symptoms:

  • Abnormal facial features, particularly a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip.
  • Small head size.
  • Short height.
  • Low body weight.
  • Poor coordination.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Difficulty concentrating and short attention span.
  • Difficulty telling the difference between reality and fantasy.
  • Poor short-term memory.
  • Poor school performance.
  • Learning disabilities.
  • Delayed speech and language development.
  • Low IQ.
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills.
  • Sleep and sucking difficulties as an infant.
  • Vision or hearing problems.

Many people that have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) find difficulties that result from the condition going into adulthood and the rest of their lives.

Physical Effects:

Some of fetal alcohol syndrome’s most prominent symptoms are its physical effects that result from the condition. Such as a lot of people with FAS have a smaller stature and are shorter than other people as a result of development and growth issues caused by this condition.

Some other physical effects of fetal alcohol syndrome that are seen in adulthood can include:

  • Defected organs;
  • Issues with bone growth;
  • flattened philtrum (groove in the upper lip);
  • The circumference of one’s head is smaller;
  • Eye openings are smaller than normal;
  • small or absent palpebral fissures (the space between the corner of the eye closest to the nose);
  • The upper lip is thinner;
  • The nose bridge is low and short;
  • Cheekbones are flattened;
  • The jaw is smaller.

A few of these physical defects might be minor or even unnoticeable. However, a few deformities in the facial area may indicate brain damage in the person.

Mental And Neurological Effects:

FAS does not only impact a person’s life with physical effects, unfortunately. A lot of people with this condition experience significant mental and developmental problems too.

Fetal alcohol syndrome may damage the central nervous system directly, which results in neurological and structural deficiencies. These deficiencies could cause a number of problems as the person grows into a child and, later, an adult. As a matter of fact, a lot of people with FAS need specialised care to be able to handle their condition.

The mental effects that could occur as a result of FAS include:

  • Disabilities in learning;
  • Memory is poor;
  • Hyperactivity;
  • lower IQ;
  • impulsivity;
  • Social skills are poor;
  • Issues with completing tasks;
  • Greater susceptibility to some mental health disorders;
  • The risk of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction is increased;
  • mental retardation;
  • Disorders in hearing.

A few people with fetal alcohol syndrome might not show any signs or symptoms of this condition after infancy. However, a lot of individuals with the condition will struggle as a result of it for the rest of their lives.

Long-term Effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Adults

In the long term, fetal alcohol syndrome in adults could contribute to a host of secondary conditions and issues that tend to make life increasingly tough for those who suffer and for their caregivers.

The effects of fetal alcohol syndrome could be rather challenging to go through during adulthood, which is when the person is expected to take care of him or herself. Adults who go through effects relating to fetal alcohol exposure usually require help as they attempt to find housing, employment, transportation, and manage daily life.

Unfortunately, a huge number of those affected will not receive the resources and support they need to succeed in their entire life. According to a study by the University of Washington of people with fetal alcohol syndrome of the ages 6-51, almost 80% had employment issues. What’s more that over 60% of those over the age of 12 had legal troubles, and 35% were known to have drug and alcohol use disorders.

As people with FAS become adults, they and their caregivers both face newer challenges. Specialised counsellors and coaches might be needed to help such people to live happily and more independently.

There are a number of secondary effects that a lot of people with fetal alcohol syndrome encounter. These are as follows:

  • Mental health issues;
  • Unemployment;
  • Homelessness;
  • Academic success disrupted;
  • Unable to live independently;
  • Being victimised;
  • Problems raising their own children.

To bring up the awareness of fetal alcohol syndrome, here is a list of some celebrities that are living with it.

Reece Witherspoon

The award-winning actress and producer who is working in Hollywood, Reese Witherspoon, is also known to be suffering from FAS due to her mother’s addiction to alcohol during the time of her birth. In her early years, she had issues in learning, which is a common symptom of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

It was also rumoured that just like her mother, Reese is also addicted to alcohol and has been to luxury treatment centres quite a few times in her life. She is mostly reported to be among the celebrities who were admitted to luxury rehab centres.

Bernie Sanders

This could be surprising for some, as FAS is often the cause of slow brain development and growth. However, Bernie Sanders is known to be one of the most intellectual and smart senators in US politics even though he is living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

However, his lack of impulse control and poor social skills is mostly linked to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Due to this, Sanders supports the organisations that support FAS victims and also funds alcohol treatment centres. He has also requested his supporters many times to get treated in alcohol treatment centres if they are pregnant to save their children from being diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey is loved by everyone. He is a popular comedy Canadian-American actor, and many consider him the funniest guy in Hollywood. However, he too is suffering from FAS as he displays his lurching mannerism quite a lot which is often caused by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

In a lot of his interviews, he has spoken of his mother’s alcohol issues that were the result of him getting FAS, but he also acknowledges her part in his success. He only regrets one thing; his mother was not going into alcohol treatment centres when she was going to give birth to him.

Now, he is a supporter and donor of residential treatment centres and alcohol treatment centres and takes part in awareness and fundraising programs about FAS and alcohol addiction a lot of the time. “When it is bad for both men and women, alcohol addiction is worst for pregnant women”, he said in an interview of his.

Daniel Radcliffe

The actor known to the world as Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe, has suffered from learning disorders that were linked to FAS. He was diagnosed with partial dyslexia, which is a usual symptom of FAS. He claimed that he still couldn’t tie his shoelaces correctly and usually regrets that his mother didn’t go into any luxury alcohol treatment centres as she was wealthy when she was supposed to give birth to him; that could have saved him a lot of the trouble he faces today.

He is now a supporter of a lot of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome organisations and alcohol treatment centres and usually takes part in events to raise awareness.

Unfortunately, fetal alcohol syndrome is rather difficult to diagnose, and it can take years for a person to recognise the symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome. This might not be until adolescence or adulthood, and the diagnosis could come as a result of employment or legal issues. There are even more issues resulting from postponed diagnosis as the complications attached to fetal alcohol syndrome are not controlled well at that point. Individuals that are diagnosed later in life do not benefit from intensive therapy at an early age. It might be tough to get these services once an individual has reached adulthood, as a lot of these therapies are for kids. Diagnoses could be complicated by alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness, or other traumatic brain damages, which could cause fetal alcohol syndrome to present differently. Physical features indicative of fetal alcohol syndrome can change, and growth might normalise, further complicating a diagnosis.

Diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome in adults is similar to that of children. However, it is complicated by the fact that children with the disorder look more physically distinctive than grown adults with the issue. With that, getting the background of a mother’s alcohol use in pregnancy might be more difficult when the person is an adult (since you would have to search about twenty years in the past). Nonetheless, doctors may evaluate the presence of certain factors, which include:

  • A smaller head;
  • Slim upper lip;
  • Stature being short;
  • Known cognitive or behavioural problems.

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