Noonan Syndrome

Noonan syndrome is a condition that affects many areas of the body. It is characterized by mildly unusual facial features, short stature, heart defects, bleeding problems, skeletal malformations, and many other signs and symptoms. Noonan syndrome occurs in approximately 1 in 1,000 to 2,500 people.

People with Noonan syndrome have distinctive facial features such as a deep groove in the area between the nose and mouth (philtrum), widely spaced eyes that are usually pale blue or blue-green in color, and low-set ears that are rotated backward. Affected individuals may have a high arch in the roof of the mouth (high-arched palate), poor teeth alignment, and a small lower jaw (micrognathia). Many children with Noonan syndrome have a short neck, and both children and adults may have excess neck skin (also called webbing) and a low hairline at the back of the neck.

Between 50 and 70 percent of individuals with Noonan syndrome have short stature. At birth, they are usually a normal length and weight, but growth slows over time. Abnormal levels of growth hormone, a protein that is necessary for the normal growth of the body’s bones and tissues, may contribute to the slow growth.

Individuals with Noonan syndrome often have either a sunken chest (pectusexcavatum) or a protruding chest (pectuscarinatum). Some affected people may also have an abnormal side-to-side curvature of the spine (scoliosis).

Most people with Noonan syndrome have some form of critical congenital heart disease. The most common heart defect in these individuals is a narrowing of the valve that controls blood flow from the heart to the lungs (pulmonary valve stenosis). Some have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which enlarges and weakens the heart muscle.

Signs and symptoms

Most children diagnosed with Noonan syndrome have normal intelligence, but a few have special educational needs, and some have intellectual disability. Some affected individuals have vision or hearing problems. Affected infants may have feeding problems, which typically get better by age 1 or 2 years. Infants with Noonan syndrome may be born with puffy hands and feet caused by a buildup of fluid (lymphedema), which can go away on its own. Older individuals can also develop lymphedema, usually in the ankles and lower legs.

Some people with Noonan syndrome develop cancer, particularly those involving the blood-forming cells (leukemia). It has been estimated that children with Noonan syndrome have an eightfold increased risk of developing leukemia or other cancers over age-matched peers.

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