Medical treatment of autism spectrum disorders

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Abstract

Purpose of review

There are several common medical conditions occurring in people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that can benefit from treatment and can in turn improve the health and quality of life of people with ASD. This review will primarily focus on these medical comorbidities, with a brief review of potential future treatments.

Recent findings

There continues to be disagreement regarding the exact prevalence and etiological significance of gastrointestinal conditions, epilepsy and other abnormal electroencephalographic findings, and sleep problems. It is not clear whether gastrointestinal conditions occur more frequently than in typically developing children, and whether there are distinct conditions that occur more often in ASD than in non-ASD populations. Abnormal electroencephalographic findings have been reported in up to 60% of children with ASD, and some believe that these abnormalities may be responsible for parts of the ASD phenotype. Sleep problems are reported more frequently than in the general population, and effective treatments are available. Future medical treatments for ASD may be directed at underlying core symptoms and have greater impact than today's symptomatic approach.

Summary

Further research in these areas is needed to better guide diagnosis and treatment of a variety of medical conditions experienced by people with ASD.

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