Signs and symptoms of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

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Child with craniofacial abnormality
  • Craniofacial abnormalities. The main features are a smooth philtrum (subnasal fold), a thin upper lip (the characteristic ‘M’ shape or ‘Cupid's bow’ disappears) and small palpebral fissures (eye openings). There are reference values with measurements for these facial structures that allow the degree of normality or abnormality of these signs to be determined.
Boy smaller and shorter than the other
  • Stunted growth. Children present weight and/or height values below a minimum value based on their age and sex.
  • Disorders of the central nervous system. Prenatal exposure to alcohol damages brain development and leads to a range of abnormalities (mainly behavioural and cognitive) in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. This damage is reflected in the following signs and symptoms:
    • Anatomical structure of the nervous system, for example microcephaly (a head circumference that is smaller than expected for the person’s age) or abnormalities in the formation of different brain structures.
    • Impaired neurological functioning, with the emergence of seizures, impaired motor skill development, hearing loss, visual problems, poor visuospatial coordination, etc.
    • Behavioural disturbances that manifest as behavioural disorders, aggression, lack of impulse control, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, delays in mental development, learning disabilities, memory issues, socialisation problems, etc.

Many other issues can also be associated with FASD, for example heart problems, bone and joint disorders, kidney disorders, sleep disorders, etc.

FASD and its clinical forms can be diagnosed by confirming that alcohol consumption took place during pregnancy, along with with the aforementioned signs and symptoms.

Substantiated information by:

Marta Astals Vizcaíno
Oscar García Algar

Published: 25 August 2021
Updated: 10 September 2021

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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