Turner Syndrome Complications

Regular Screenings Help Manage Possible Problems

Turner syndrome (TS) is a disorder that affects the normal growth and development in females. TS is characterized by abnormal physical features, such as short stature. It also affects ovarian function, which in turn, impacts fertility and estrogen levels. But Turner syndrome can have other complications, including heart and kidney abnormalities. That is why regular screenings are so important if you have TS.

Below are medical conditions that are commonly associated with Turner syndrome. Your doctor will monitor you closely to see if one or more of these conditions develop, and then he or she will help manage the problem.

Heart Problems
About 30% of people with Turner syndrome have heart problems—and these most commonly involve the aortic valve and the aorta. These structures help blood flow throughout the heart. Women with problems of the aorta sometimes have to refrain from strenuous activity, and they need to be closely monitored during pregnancy.

Another heart problem associated with Turner syndrome is high blood pressure. Regular medical screenings—even if you have no family history of heart disease—are essential to preventing the potentially serious side effects of these heart conditions.

At the time of diagnosis with Turner Syndrome, your doctor will arrange a complete heart evaluation. Your doctor will then monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol at routine clinic visits. Your doctor will ensure that you have another complete heart evaluation if you are considering becoming pregnant.

Kidney Problems
Kidney complications are common in girls with TS—about 30% experience kidney problems. Fortunately, kidney complications do not usually present serious medical concerns.

In most cases, people with Turner syndrome are susceptible to urinary tract infections. This could be caused by a variety of things related to Turner syndrome. For instance, TS may have prevented the kidneys from forming into the correct shape, or the kidneys may be in an unusual position.

At the time of diagnosis with TS, you will have a kidney ultrasound to see if there are any abnormalities.

Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism can be caused by inflammation of the thyroid gland—also known as thyroiditis. Hypothyroidism may occur in Turner syndrome, though researchers don't fully understand why people with TS are at an increased risk of developing the disorder.

Hypothyroidism is marked by low thyroid hormone levels, which slows down metabolism and growth. This will further stunt normal development.

Fortunately, hypothyroidism is easily treatable with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

Yearly thyroid screening bloodwork will be done by your doctor as part of routine TS care.

Ear and Hearing Problems
Turner syndrome affects the healthy development of your ears, so ear problems are common in girls with TS.

Girls with TS are at a higher risk of getting frequent ear infections because their ears have a unique shape and structure. The more ear infections you have, the greater the risk of hearing loss.

Regular check-ups will help prevent significant ear and hearing issues.

Other Health Concerns
Turner syndrome may put you at a higher risk for other health problems, including:

  • eye and vision problems: People with TS may experience a number of eye problems—lazy eye, droopy upper eyelids, and congenital glaucoma (pressure inside the eye present at birth). But the most common eye condition associated with Turner syndrome is crossed or wandering eyes.
  • scoliosis: The growth abnormalities that characterize Turner syndrome put girls, particularly during childhood and early adolescence, at higher risk for developing scoliosis—an abnormal curvature of the spine.
  • osteoporosis: A heightened osteoporosis risk in people with TS is related to diminished estrogen production. Estrogen supports bone growth.

    But if you were diagnosed with Turner syndrome at a young age, your years of taking growth hormone and estrogen replacement treatments can help ward off osteoporosis.
  • obesity: Obesity, especially in teens and adults, is a common problem in people with TS. A healthy lifestyle that incorporates exercise and balanced nutrition will effectively help control your weight.
  • diabetes: Adults with TS also seem to have an increased risk of developing diabetes. Your doctor will do an annual test for diabetes as part of routine TS care.
  • celiac disease: Also called sprue, about 5% of women with TS develop celiac disease, which like hypothyroidisim, is an autoimmune disease (this means that for unclear reasons the body attacks its own tissues). People with celiac disease have to avoid gluten in their diet because gluten causes their immune system to damage their gut, causing discomfort and malabsorption of vitamins and nutrition.

If you have Turner syndrome, getting regular check-ups will help manage and reduce the risk of having any associated medical problems. Understand that just because you have Turner syndrome doesn't guarantee that you will develop one of these conditions. Turner syndrome puts you at a higher risk of having these complications than someone who does not have TS.