What Is Williams syndrome?
Also known as William Beuren syndrome, Williams syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that causes several developmental problems that affect many different parts of the body. William syndrome can cause distinctive “elfin-like” facial features, mild to moderate learning disabilities and development, musculoskeletal ailments, endocrine abnormalities and problems of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular problems), including the narrowing of the blood vessels. People with Williams syndrome have problems related to visual and spatial activities such as assembling puzzles, drawing, etc.
These problems occur along with unique and highly social personality, affinity for music, learning by repetition and high verbal abilities. Abnormalities in growth are also common with Williams syndrome and it may result in poor growth during childhood and most adults with the condition are usually shorter.
Although there is a genetic link, even without any family history, a person can have Williams syndrome. The disorder is usually caused due to random genetic mutations and there is a chance that people who are affected by the syndrome have a 50% chance of passing it on to their children. Williams syndrome occurs 1 in 10,000 people.
What Are The Symptoms Of Williams syndrome?
Common symptoms associated with Williams syndrome are:
- Distinct facial features such as a small upturned nose, wide mouth, full lips and widely spaced teeth.
- Feeding problems or colic
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
- Learning disorders
- Phobias and anxiety
- Pinky finger bent inwards
- Speech delays
- Short Stature
- Sunken chest
- Intellectual disability
- Low weight when born and weak muscle tone
- Abnormalities of kidney
- Chronic middle ear infections
Some of the personality traits exhibited by people with Williams syndrome are:
- Interest in music
- Overly friendly behavior
- Aversion to physical contact
- Sensitivity to loud noises
- Outgoing and talkative
What Are The Causes Of Williams syndrome?
- Williams syndrome is caused due to the missing genes 26-28 on one of the chromosomes of a child. These genes are usually missing in the egg or the sperm before they unite to form the baby.
- Williams syndrome is caused due to a random disorder in the genes.
- Babies can inherit this genetic deletion from their parents. However, this happens in a very small number of cases.
- There is a 50% chance of the disorder being passed on to the person’s children.
- The blood vessel problems associated with Williams syndrome is caused due to the gene, elastin.
- Other problems associated with Williams disease is due to the involvement of other genes.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Williams syndrome?
- Heart problems are common in Williams syndrome and medicines are required to lower the blood pressure. These medications must be taken regularly.
- Screen the vision and hearing of the patients regularly.
- Speech and language therapy and special education may be required for those suffering from learning and speech disabilities.
- Visit the doctor and cardiologist (heart doctor) to regularly monitor the condition of patients with Williams syndrome to prevent any complications.
- Patients with the disorder may benefit from behavioural therapy to improve their social and communication skills. Therapy can also help to reduce behaviours like temper tantrums, hyperactivity and aggression.
- Physical therapy can help patients with Williams syndrome to improve their coordination, balance, joint mobility and muscle strength.
- You can also use massage therapy for children with ADHD to improve their mood and behaviour.
- Physical exercise and a healthy diet are very important for people with Williams syndrome to prevent the risk of diabetes.
- Use a growth chart to map the growth curve of children with Williams syndrome, as this is a good indicator of their health.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Williams syndrome?
- Don’t ignore any changes in the child’s activity level.
- Don’t ignore any changes in the child’s eating or bathroom habits.
What Are The Best Foods For Williams syndrome?
A well-balanced and healthy diet can help to reduce the risk of diabetes in persons with Williams syndrome.
- Foods that are high in zinc such as spinach, kidney beans, flax seeds, peanuts, garlic, lima beans, etc. can help children with ADHD, which is one of the symptoms of Williams syndrome.
- Flaxseeds are very beneficial for people with Williams syndrome.
- Having supplements containing glyconutrients, which essentially contain monosaccharides that can help to reduce the severity of symptoms of ADHD in kids. Some of the foods that contain glyconutrients naturally are aloe vera, garlic, mushrooms, coconut meat, etc.
- Foods rich in iron like leafy green vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, etc., seafood, beans, peas, red meat like poultry, pork, etc. can help to reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children with Williams syndrome.
What Are The Worst Foods For Williams syndrome?
- Avoid a diet that is high in calcium. Avoid calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. as there is a very high level of both calcium as well as vitamin D in persons with Williams syndrome. Calcium deposits can cause narrowed blood vessels that can cause heart failure and kidney problems.
- Avoid foods that are rich in vitamin D such as fatty fish like mackerel, tuna, salmon, etc., beef liver, egg yolk, cheese, etc.
- Avoid foods that cause constipation and gastrointestinal reflux. Make sure that the diet contains fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc.
What Are The Medicines For Williams syndrome?
What Are The Tips To Manage Williams syndrome?
- Williams syndrome cannot be cured; however, the symptoms of the disorder can be managed. The life expectancy may be reduced due to some complications caused by diseases like diabetes, heart disease, etc. But with constant medical evaluation, people with Williams syndrome can live a normal life up to their 60s.
- A genetic counselor can help to determine the risk of your family for Williams syndrome and this can help if you are planning to have children.
- Early intervention programs can help patients with Williams syndrome, especially children with disabilities related to sensory, cognitive and motor skills. There are therapists and special educators who can help in the development of motor, social and language skills of babies and young children.