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What Are the Symptoms of Williams Syndrome?

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  • Written By: Marty Paule
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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People born with Williams syndrome exhibit a range of symptoms that set this genetic condition apart from similar conditions that also result in abnormal physical and mental development. Pronounced sociability, unusual language skills, elfin facial features, and a tendency to have cardiovascular problems are the leading symptoms of Williams syndrome. Williams syndrome babies may have abnormally high blood calcium levels that result in irritable symptoms that resemble colic. Other symptoms of Williams syndrome include problems with nursing and feeding, abnormal dental development, hyper-acute hearing, and structural issues with bones and muscles. They also frequently face challenges with learning that include mental retardation and attention deficit disorder (ADD) causing them to lag behind their peers in many developmental phases.

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There are a variety of physical characteristics that distinguish a person with Williams syndrome from others. The facial symptoms of Williams syndrome include an unusually flat nasal bridge; a small, upturned nose; and epicanthal folds on the eyelids, as well as an open mouth with large lips and ridges in the skin tissue between the upper lip and nose. Externally, children with symptoms of Williams syndrome tend to be shorter than their siblings and have bent small fingers and sunken chests, while internally, they tend to exhibit digestive problems, especially in infancy, that include reflux, vomiting, and colic. They are also often farsighted; have malformed, misplaced. or missing teeth; an array of heart and blood vessel issues; and are prone to inguinal and umbilical hernias. Williams syndrome children may have hearing that at certain frequencies may be hypersensitive, causing pain and a startle reflex.

Personality traits are the most obvious symptoms of Williams syndrome. Individuals with the condition exhibit a high degree of sociability and often exhibit exceptional language skills as they mature, despite experiencing delays in acquiring language earlier in life. Typically extremely friendly, Williams syndrome children often gravitate towards and relate more to adults in social situations rather than their peers. They also experience problems making visual-spatial connections and dealing with tasks involving fine motor skills.

The greatest intellectual challenges faced by those with Williams syndrome have to do with learning disabilities, delays in development, and ADD. Verbal and physical development is often delayed and behavioral accomplishments such as toilet training usually occur later than with their peers. They are easily distracted as young children, but focus sometimes improves as Williams syndrome children grow older. As adults and teens, they may exhibit a variety of unusual intellectual assets and deficits. William syndrome people often have excellent long-term memories and quite refined social skills.

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