Purpose of review
The purpose of this review is to describe recent findings on the clinical presentation, pathogenesis, and management of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Alcohol causes a range of physical, developmental, and cognitive impairments on the developing fetus. Individuals exposed to alcohol prenatally have a wide variability in dysmorphic and neurologic features. Hence, a greater understanding of the mechanisms through which alcohol induces defects in the developing fetus is imperative in developing therapies that prevent alcohol-induced effects.
Current research has focused on leveraging technology to developing tools that can aid in the diagnostic process, defining patterns of neurocognition and neuroimaging specific to FASD, developing neurobehavioral and pharmacologic interventions, and expanding access to care.
FASDs are a common cause of neurodevelopmental impairment in school-age children, and their recognition is essential to provide early interventions in order to optimize the outcome for these individuals when they reach adulthood. Although previously thought to be the result of irreversible neurologic injury from prenatal alcohol exposure, recent evidence points to the benefits of applying principles regarding neuroplasticity in improving the lives for patients and their families.