Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness Day: New guidelines aid in better diagnosis

Alcohol is the most commonly abused addictive substance in the United States, which is easily available all over. As per reports, about 679,000 American youngsters aged between 12 and 17 years had an alcohol use disorder in 2014. The number includes 367,000 females and  311,000 males.

Though alcohol is considered as a stress buster and a recreational drug by many, addiction to it can lead to numerous health hazards, like high blood pressure, cancer, osteoporosis (specially in women) and sexual problems. Pregnant women are strictly advised against consuming alcohol during the prenatal period as it can increase the chances of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in the unborn child.  

FASDs are a set of conditions that can occur in kids whose mothers drink alcohol during the pregnancy. FASDs can lead to problems like short height, low intelligence, small head and other behavioral problems. Recently, a team of FASD experts revealed the impact of alcohol consumption on the child during prenatal development.

Researchers proposed updated guidelines for diagnosing FASD

A team of researchers led by physician Eugene Hoyme, M.D., Sanford Health recently proposed updated clinical guidelines for diagnosing FASD. These guidelines are the continuation of the guidelines published in 2005 and are based on a careful examination of 10,000 individuals involved in research of prenatal alcohol exposure. Funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the study was published in Pediatrics in August 2016.

The updated guidelines are a tool to assess physical deformities related to FASD and they provide information on cognitive and behavioral impairments noticed in different FASD subtypes in children who are less than three years old.  

A multidisciplinary approach that requires the kid’s medical assessment by a pediatrician and evaluation of the mother’s alcohol intake during pregnancy has been considered as the smartest of all the approaches available to diagnose FASD.

Dr. Kenneth R. Warren, senior advisor to the NIAAA director and the co-author of the guidelines said that the four diagnostic categories that were identified in 1996 by the researchers continue to be the most appropriate descriptors of the range of disabilities observed within the continuum of FASD. The four diagnostic categories include fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), partial fetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) and alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD).  

The research paper also contains a guideline for evaluating lip/philtrum abnormalities in children and a table specifying the scoring system for characteristic physical deformities. Philtrum is a condition in which a kid with FAS has a thin upper lip and a flat groove between the nose and upper lip.

As per the updated guidelines, children with FASD, excluding those with ARBD, will exhibit some or the other signs of cognitive or behavioral impairments. As epilepsy is generally seen in children with FASD, frequent seizures or epilepsy has been included as the potential indicator of FAS or PFAS.  

Road to recovery

The American Academy of Pediatrics has also confirmed that alcohol consumption is not safe in any amount during pregnancy for the fetus. The adverse effects of alcohol cannot be ignored. It is better to maintain a minimum exposure to alcohol and safeguard oneself from the adversities. Keeping a woman away from alcohol during pregnancy can give a better life to the newborn. To support this idea and spread awareness about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, the U.S. observes September 9 as the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness Day every year.

If you know someone who is an alcoholic and requires immediate help, you can contact the Florida Alcohol Addiction Helpline. Our experts will help you find the best alcohol rehab center in Florida. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-220-5381 or chat online to know about various alcohol rehab centers in Florida.