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Autism - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment

What is Autism?

Autism is not called as a single disease. Autism is a part of range of developmental disorders called as Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Autism begin during childhood and last till adulthood. . Autism may be silent in some individuals as a mental disability, while in others some repetitive movements such as hand flappings and rocking are seen.

People with mild- to-moderate impairments who have average to above average intelligence are often grown up to be independent with jobs, long term relationships and have children. But those with below the average level of intelligence are less likely to live independently as an adult and may require additional care & assistance.

Symptoms of Autism

Autism has a variety of manifestations that can be divided into 3 broad groups:

Problems with social interactions: The affected children of autism may have difficulty understanding the feelings and emotions of other people.

Problems with Language and Communication Skills: This may be manifested as delay in the development of their language and starting conversations.

Unusual behavior and thoughts: This includes repetitive activities and movements and gets upset if their routine is altered.

Premature Weights and Various Disorders

A very small number of children that are born low birth weight are at greater risks for ASD. Around 35% of people with autism have other disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, Tourette syndrome, hypothyroidism, epilepsy, high blood pressure, and  Down’s syndrome.

There may be certain metabolic disorders such as phenylketonuria or histidinemia, Landau-Kleffner and Rett’s syndrome and a certain other conditions that affect brain function and development.

Genetic disorders such as Fragile X syndrome, Down Syndrome, Angelman’s syndrome, Edwards Syndrome, and Klinefelter syndromes that are associated with XXY genotype may raise the risk for autism according to some studies.

Genetic factors for Autism

Evidence links that genetic factors contribute to the risk of autism those as many as 12 genes on different chromosomes may be involved in autism. Each of them is involved in various degrees. Some genes may keep a person at greater risks for autism known as susceptibility whereas the others may cause specific symptoms and/or severity of the symptoms. Some genes with mutations may be added to the symptoms of autism. The idea of genes responsible for autism gets support from the facts such as the identical twins are at a higher risk of having ASD (about 36-95% of the time) and in case of non-identical twins, if one child is affected with an ASD, the other child can be affected about 0-31% of the time. In addition to this, the parents who have a previous child with an ASD have 2–18% chances of having a second child too with an ASD. Evidence also raise the risk of around 10% of autistic children having other genetic conditions such as Down’s syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Tuberous sclerosis, and other chromosomal disorders.

Viruses and infections for Autism

Research also shows evidence that environmental factor such as viruses may play a significant role in causing autism. Rubella virus is known as the first known virus causing autism but later it was found that measles and mumps viruses can also cause encephalitis that result in autism. The infections that related to the development of autism may include rubella, herpes simplexvirus, mumps, cytomegialovirus, Stealth virus, and encephalitis caused due to measles. These infections usually affect the fetus in the mother’s womb.

Vaccines and autism

Till to date, there is no concluded scientific evidence that any vaccine or a combination of vaccines cause autism and even there is no proof about the same but this developed a fear that a vaccine preservative Thimerosal can be responsible for autism.

Myths about Autism

Autism is said to be linked to administration of the MMR vaccine (against measles, mumps, and rubella), but extensive studies have disproved this myth and the National Autism Society had released a statement saying that there is no link between ASD and MMR.

There is another myth exists that a compound containing mercury known as thiomersal that is used as a preservative in certain vaccines could be linked to ASD, of course Thiomersal has extensively been studied and found no evidence of a link to ASD and Thiomersal. Thiomersal was then discontinued from vaccines in US after 1999. But even then, the rates are continued to rise.

Autism Medications

Some medications such as Valproic acid and thalidomide when taken during pregnancy have been linked with a risk of ASDs. Drugs such as Misoprostol, which is a prostaglandin analogue that used to cause abortion and for treating gastric ulcers are also implicated. Valproic acid when given to epileptic pregnant mothers also raises the risk of autism. Another drug acetaminophen has also been linked to cause autism.

Autism diagnosis and Autism Treatment

Autism in children can be diagnosed as early as at the age of two, but it is rather difficult as the symptoms become more noticeable as they become older. Some people grow up even without knowing they have ASD.

Currently there is no cure for ASD. Autism treatment includes a wide range of behavioral programs and specialist education, which may help in improving the symptoms of autism.