Friday, 16 August 2013

Autism flare ups and comorbidities

Anyone familiar with autism will know that it seems to go in waves of good and not so good.  Generally this gets accepted as just the way it has to be.

I chanced upon an unusual paper recently, it was all about comorbidities in autism.  As you may know, comorbidities are other diseases that seem to frequently occur alongside autism.  The main point of the paper and the charity behind it, is that comorbidities should be diagnosed and treated, rather than ignored, just because the person has ASD.

The paper was produced by Treating Autism, a UK charity that follows a biomedical approach similar to the American DAN organisation.  They have a link to a very comprehensive summary of what DAN actually recommends. The DAN paper is by a Dr Jepson.

The idea of treating the comorbidities as they crop up, seems entirely logical to me; but it seems to miss the bigger issue of what the comorbidity might help tell us about the autism itself.

Their list of comorbidities to keep a look at for:-

·         Allergic disorders in ASD: effects of allergies on behaviour, cognition and anxiety. Food and inhalant allergies, allergic rhinitis.
·         Autoimmunity in ASD. 
·         Autonomic nervous system dysfunction (dysautonomia) in ASD
·         Seizure disorders in ASD

Allergic rhinitis was of course the one that caught my eye.  This is the medical name for the itchy red eyes and runny nose caused by summertime pollen and pollution.  This reinforced by own observation that histamine can have a major negative impact on behaviour in ASD.  This was presented in my recent posts on histamine and antihistamine drugs.

Also of note to me was the observation that atopic dermatitis (itchy skin) and asthma are comorbidities.  Asthma was one of the comorbidities I choose to investigate myself.  An interesting observation I came across was that atopic dermatitis is actually a good predictor of developing asthma and, in fact, that by effectively treating it with a particular drug (ketotifen), you can actually halt the progression to asthma.  There is a study investigating exactly this issue; one half of the trial were itchy toddlers with a placebo and the other itchy toddlers had ketotifen.  A year later the group with ketotifen had a far lower percentage that had developed asthma than the placebo group.  I call that interesting but how many family doctors, let alone parents, are aware of that?

Also, another interesting paper all about childhood allergies is called The Allergic March.


Autism flare ups seem to be common and a little investigation may well lead to a better understanding of your child’s type of autism.  By recording data on bad behaviours, as in an ABA programme, or my preference, by just be keeping a watchful eye, you may well identify the cause and then find a remedy.  It might be a wobbly tooth, or it might be something more subtle like histamine.

I also believe that a detailed understanding of the comorbidities will ultimately lead to some effective therapies for autism itself.  Since it is clear that different people have different types of autism, knowing what triggers your child's flare ups may well help define what type of autism he/she has and therefore what therapies may or may not prove effective.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a comment