The human body typically contains 46 (or 23 paired) chromosomes that store your genetic material. The X and Y sex chromosomes determine your gender. The male sex has one X and one Y chromosome. The female sex has two X chromosomes.
Turner syndrome is a genetic condition caused by an abnormality on one of your sex chromosomes. It’s also called monosomy X, gonadal dysgenesis, and Bonnevie-Ullrich syndrome. The condition is found only in the female gender.
Turner syndrome occurs when part or all of one of your X chromosomes is missing. This condition affects approximately 1 out of 2,000 live female births.
People with Turner syndrome can lead healthy and normal lives. But they typically require some ongoing and consistent medical supervision to treat and detect complications that might occur.
There is no way to prevent Turner syndrome, and the cause of the genetic abnormality is unknown.
Females with Turner syndrome exhibit certain physical characteristics at birth and in childhood, including:
- swollen hands and feet (in infants)
- short stature
- a high palate
- low-set ears
- droopy eyelids
- flat feet
Females with this condition may also have other medical problems associated with Turner syndrome, including:
- heart defects
- problems with sexual development
- hearing loss
- high blood pressure
- dry eyes
- frequent ear infections
- scoliosis (spinal curvature)
These symptoms can appear either early in infancy or, in the case of sexual development and fertility issues, later in adolescence.
Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that Turner syndrome exists. It’s important for a young female or adolescent suspected of having this syndrome to be seen by a doctor for a thorough examination and accurate diagnosis.
Using prenatal genetic testing, Turner syndrome can sometimes be diagnosed before birth. The condition can be identified through karyotyping. When performed during prenatal testing, karyotyping is a laboratory analysis of the mother’s chromosomes that can detect genetic abnormalities.
Your doctor may also order tests to look for the physical symptoms of Turner syndrome. These tests may include:
- blood tests to check sex hormone levels
- an echocardiogram to examine for heart defects
- a pelvic exam
- a pelvic and kidney ultrasound
- a chest MRI
Individuals with Turner syndrome are at a higher risk for certain medical problems. Luckily, with appropriate monitoring and regular checkups, complications can be managed.
Kidney abnormalities are common. Some females with Turner syndrome can also have recurrent urinary tract infections and the kidneys may be malformed or in the wrong position in the body. These abnormalities can increase the risk of high blood pressure.
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which there are low levels of thyroid hormone, and is another possible complication. It’s caused by the inflammation of the thyroid gland and can be treated with supplemental thyroid hormone.
Individuals with Turner syndrome have a higher-than-average risk of developing celiac disease. Celiac disease causes the body to have an allergic reaction to the protein gluten, found in foods like wheat and barley.
Heart abnormalities are common in individuals with Turner syndrome. People with the condition should be monitored for problems with their aorta and high blood pressure.
Obesity may be a complication for some individuals with Turner syndrome. Obesity can increase the risk of developing diabetes.
You can still lead a healthy and happy life if you’re diagnosed with Turner syndrome. Though there is no cure, there are treatments available that can ease your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Growth hormone injections may help children with Turner syndrome to grow taller. Hormone therapy can also aid in the development of secondary sex characteristics like breasts and pubic hair. It’s usually administered at the start of puberty.
Women who are infertile because of Turner syndrome can use a donor egg to get pregnant. Your gynecologist can refer you to a fertility specialist who can help you choose the best option for you.
Finding a support group for females with the condition or talking to a counselor can help you with any emotional difficulties you encounter as a result of your condition.