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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe type of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Other types of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are conditions in which individuals have some, but not all, of the characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Terms currently being used, or that have been used, to describe the different types of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders include:
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Partial fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Fetal alcohol effects
  • Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND)
  • Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD).

Characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the leading known preventable causes of mental retardation and birth defects. The general characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome include:
  • Abnormal facial features
  • Growth deficiency
  • Central nervous system (CNS) problems.
(Click Characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome for more information on symptoms associated with fetal alcohol syndrome.)

What Are the Effects?

Secondary effects of fetal alcohol syndrome are problems that a person is not born with but might acquire as a result of the condition. These secondary effects include:
  • Mental health problems
  • Disrupted school experience
  • Trouble with the law
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Dependent living and problems with employment
  • Problems with parenting.
(Click Effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome for more information on complications associated with this disorder.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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