What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult?
Fetal alcohol syndrome adult is a type of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). The condition can cause central nervous system problems, physical malformations, and multiple issues with learning and behavior. While some symptoms can be treated, the disorder itself is permanent.
The Causes of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult
Fetal alcohol syndrome adult is caused by alcohol entering the bloodstream of an unborn child, which occurs when a woman ingests alcohol during pregnancy. When alcohol is consumed during pregnancy, a percentage of it crosses into the placenta and enters the fetus. Alcohol can create a variety of side effects in an unborn child because the liver of a fetus can’t process alcohol like an adult. The presence of alcohol in an unborn child can:
- Slow blood flow to the placenta, depriving the fetus of oxygen and nutrients
- Damage the brain of the fetus with toxic alcohol byproducts
- Kill healthy cells, resulting in abnormal development
- Harm the development of nerve cells
Childhood Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult
The signs of FAS are often noticeable in early childhood and can vary in intensity. A newborn with FAS typically has a low body weight and lags in growth. The child may also show a specific pattern of facial malformations, including:
- Small eye sockets
- Smooth skin between the nose and upper lip (philtrum) instead of a crease
- Flattened cheekbones
FAS is often accompanied by alcohol-related birth defects (ARBDs), such as problems with the heart, kidneys, skeleton, ears, and eyes. Throughout childhood, individuals with FAS may struggle with interpersonal boundaries. They might need excessive physical contact and show hyperactivity. They might also have trouble remembering things, have a short attention span, and struggle with their motor skills.
Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult
No specific medical tests exist for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult, so a diagnosis is usually made based on the presence of various factors. These include:
- Central nervous system problems, such as a small head size
- Problems with hyperactivity, attention and coordination
- Known alcohol intake by the mother during pregnancy
- Abnormal facial features, such as a smooth philtrum
- Short stature
- Low body weight
Physical Signs and Effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult
Many physical effects of FAS persist into adulthood. However, these effects may look less distinctive in adults than children. Physical effects of FAS that last into adulthood often include:
- Short stature
- Small head size
- Thin upper lip
- Reduced brain size
Mental Health and Behavioral Struggles Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult
Mental health concerns are common in adults with FAS, impacting 90% of people with the disorder. These issues include:
- Problems with attention, distraction, learning and memory
- Decision-making and planning problems
- Externalizing problems, such as aggression
- Internalizing problems, such as depression, anxiety, social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Depression impacts 44% of adults with FAS
- Psychotic symptoms impact 40%
- Anxiety impacts 20%
- Bipolar disorder impacts 20%
Children who have no physical abnormalities but struggle with mental and behavioral concerns may have an alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND). A child with ARND may show developmental disabilities with behavioral and learning problems without the facial abnormalities that indicate FAS.
Secondary Conditions of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult
The effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult can be especially difficult to navigate during adulthood when individuals are expected to take care of themselves. Adults with FAS often need support as they try to handle situations like housing, employment, transportation, and money management.
Studies have shown that:
- 87% of people with FAS have never had a regular job
- 70% are unemployed
- 80% need help with their daily activities
- 66% live in an assisted-living or institutional environment
- 60% are impacted by alcohol or drug dependence
How To Diagnose a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult
Diagnosis of FAS in adults is similar to FAS diagnosis in children, but it’s complicated by the fact that children with FAS look more physically distinctive than adults with the disorder. Additionally, getting a history of a mother’s alcohol use in pregnancy may be more difficult when the person is an adult. Nonetheless, doctors can evaluate the presence of certain factors, including:
- Short stature
- Known behavioral or cognitive problems
- A small head
- A thin upper lip
Treatment Options for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult
Unfortunately, there is no cure for FAS. The syndrome is a permanent, irreversible condition; however, it can be treated. If a child is diagnosed with FAS, early intervention treatment may help their development. As a person gets older, treatments can be customized to the person’s needs and may include:
- Medications targeted at relieving some symptoms of FAS, like depression
- Therapy to help with both behavioral and educational goals
- Parent or caregiver training
In addition, counseling services are available for the parents or caregivers of children with FAS. If a mother continues to struggle with alcohol abuse after the child is born, rehabilitation services can help with addiction recovery.
Preventing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Adult
The most obvious way to prevent FAS is to refrain from drinking alcohol while pregnant. This syndrome is preventable if no alcohol is consumed during this time. It’s important to also avoid drinking alcohol if you’re trying to become pregnant or think you might already be pregnant. Take a pregnancy test as soon as you suspect that you’re pregnant. If you discover that you were drinking after the time of conception, tell your doctor and stop drinking immediately.
Symptoms of Alcoholism
As stated by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, these are the signs to be aware of in terms of this condition:
- Giving up or cutting back on activities that are important or interesting to you, in order to drink
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)
- Continuing to drink even though it was making you feel depressed, anxious, or adding to another health problem, or after having had a memory blackout
- Having to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want. Or finding that your usual number of drinks have much less effect than before
- Finding that when the effects of alcohol are wearing off, you have withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating.
- Appearing intoxicated more regularly
- Appearing tired, unwell or irritable
- An inability to say no to alcohol
- Becoming secretive or dishonest
- Drinking more, or longer than one intended
- Wanting to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but haven’t been able to do so
- Spending a lot of time drinking, being sick or getting over the aftereffects
- Experiencing craving, a strong need, or urge to drink
- Founding that drinking, or being sick from drinking, often interferes with taking care of your home or family, job troubles or school problems
- Continuing drinking even though it was causing trouble with family or friends
Treatment for alcoholism
When it comes to Alcoholism treatment, it is normal to think of 12-step programs or 28-day inpatient rehab, but it becomes difficult to think of more options of treatment for this condition. There are a variety of treatment methods currently available. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are three types of treatment:
- Behavioral Treatments for alcoholism: are aimed at changing drinking behavior through counseling. They are led by health professionals and supported by studies showing they can be beneficial.
- Medications for alcoholism: Three medications are currently approved in the United States to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. They are prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professional and may be used alone or in combination with counseling.
- Peer-Support Groups for alcoholism: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. Combined with treatment led by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support. Due to the anonymous nature of mutual-support groups, it is difficult for researchers to determine their success rates compared with those led by health professionals.
Reclaim Your Life From Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from alcoholism with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Recognizing Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) in Primary Health Care of Children.
 Moore, E. M., & Riley, E. P. (2015). What Happens When Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Become Adults?. Current developmental disorders reports, 2(3), 219–227.