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Turner Syndrome


What is Turner syndrome?

Turner syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes problems with growth and health. This condition occurs only in females. Turner syndrome occurs in about 1 in every 2,500 female births.

What is the cause?

The information that determines how our bodies are made is stored in microscopic structures called chromosomes. Copies of our chromosomes are found in all of our cells. Two of the chromosomes are called sex chromosomes. The sex chromosomes have important information on them and also determine if you are male or a female. The sex chromosomes are called the X and Y chromosome. Males have one X and one Y chromosome in every cell. Females have normally have two X chromosomes. Turner syndrome happens when one of the two X chromosomes is either missing, partially there, or rearranged. The lack of the second normal X chromosome leaves the person with only one normal X chromosome.

No one understands exactly why the second sex chromosome is lost. The loss of the genetic material may occur in the developing baby. Occasionally, it is inherited from the mother or father. Before having another child, parents are encouraged to have genetic counseling to figure out the chances of having other children with this syndrome.

What problems does it cause?

Women with Turner syndrome are usually very short. Other symptoms vary from person to person and may include:

  • ovaries do not develop
  • abnormal shape of the palate in the mouth
  • ear infections
  • a fold of skin between the shoulder and the neck
  • breasts do not develop
  • some differences in the fingernails and elbows
  • heart, kidney, hormonal and skeletal problems.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your daughter and check her growth. If your provider suspects Turner syndrome, a blood test will be done to test for Turner syndrome.

Will my child grow and develop normally?

There is no cure for Turner syndrome. Fortunately, girls and women with Turner syndrome can live happy and full lives. Turner syndrome is not a cause of mental retardation. Some girls with Turner syndrome have learning difficulties. A short height is very common. Only about 5% of girls will reach a normal height. Nearly all females with Turner syndrome have problems with fertility.

Will my child need special medical care?

Hormone treatments will help your daughter develop sexual characteristics, grow taller, and help with bone development. If your daughter has heart, kidney, or hormonal problems, specific care will be needed. Surgery for heart problems is sometimes needed early in life. Medicine and medical procedures may help a woman with Turner syndrome conceive a child. Fertility treatments are usually covered by insurance companies.

Are there support groups for families, parents, and people with Turner syndrome?

Yes. Several groups are available on the Internet to provide you with additional information. Ask your healthcare provider if there are groups in your area to provide you with information and support.


Written by Robert Brayden, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-08-13
Last reviewed: 2010-03-02

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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