Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a “significant public health problem,” a new National Institutes of Health study confirms.
Strategies are needed to expand screening, diagnosis, prevention and treatment, said George F. Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
People with FASD may experience growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities and organ damage, including to the brain, the NIH said Tuesday. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can be related to physical, cognitive, behavioral and social challenges throughout life.
“Prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading preventable cause of developmental disabilities worldwide,” Koob said in a news release.
Researchers collected data between 2010 and 2016 on 6,639 children in four communities in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain, Southeast and Pacific Southwest. Prenatal alcohol exposure was assessed by interviewing mothers or other close relatives.
The researchers found that the prevalence estimates for FASD among the selected sites ranged from 1.1 to 5 percent. This was the most conservative estimate. Using a “weighted prevalence” approach, the estimate would range from 3.1 to 9.8 percent among the study sites.
Of the 222 children diagnosed with FASD in the study, only two had been previously diagnosed, although many parents and guardians were aware of the children’s learning and behavioral challenges. This finding suggests that children often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, NIH said.
For more information on the condition, take a look at these facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.