By Audra E. Haynes, RDH, MPH, and Isis Marsh, RDH, BSDH
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe a complex neurodevelopmental disorder resulting in permanent and sometimes progressive disabilities caused by prenatal alcohol consumption. The teratogenic effects of alcohol on human embryos were first demonstrated in 1968, showing a consistent pattern of birth abnormalities in 127 children born to alcoholic mothers in France. Microcephaly, ptosis of the top eyelid (epicanthic folds), a short and upturned nose, thin vermillion of upper lip, and retrognathia, an abnormal posterior positioning of the mandible were among the first traits identified. Additionally, the children exhibited developmental delays in both motor and mental functions. Several of the children also presented with congenital heart defects, abnormal skin creases on the palm of the hand, and/or restricted supination—a rotation of the foot. Since then, many studies have confirmed the hallmark facial characteristics of FASD, as well as craniofacial abnormalities, growth impairments, and developmental delays. An individual with FASD may have physical, intellectual, or behavioral problems, or a combination of all three.
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