Friday, January 28, 2011

Clinic Notes: Toxins In Pregnant Women

A question I am asked every day in my clinic is what causes autism. Well the short answer is we don't know. Most clinicians and scientists working in the autism field suspect something in the environment that is somehow affecting brain development of the infant either pre or post natal or both. Studies have shown that autism rates go up the closer children live to a freeway or agriculture field. But there may be much more to the story. A recent study in the journal Environmental Health found 43 chemicals in 268 pregnant women, many banned since the seventies. Some have been shown to affect brain development and hormone regulation. Well that is certainly going to be a challenge for researchers.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Clinic Notes: Family Planning in the Age of Autism

The only family planning my wife and I did was to wait until I was out of graduate school. I was 27 and she was 26 when our first child was born and our second child was born 5 years latter. Both were female and normally developing, as are their children now. But now, family planning in the age of autism just got a lot more difficult.
A study reported in the journal Pediatrics found that the closer together children were spaced in date of birth the greater the chance of the second child having a diagnosis of autism. We already knew that older mothers and or older fathers increased the chances of autism, but this new study complicates that finding. So to increase the odds of our children staying off the autism spectrum we have to have our children early, but not too close together, both parents should be young--I've seen young moms and older dads have children with autism--something about old sperm--so no more younger trophy wives. And of course it is better to have girls than boys because the ratio of autistic males to females is 4 or 5 to 1. Living close to a freeway or an agriculture field increases the chance of autism so couples may need to move before having a family. And higher education is correlated with autism so drop out of school. I don't recall seeing a young teenage mother with a child with autism in my clinic, but perhaps there are some.
There is nothing funny about autism and I don't mean for this blog to be humorous, but this is what the data are telling us at this point.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Clinic Notes: Wakefield Redux

No one knows why Autism is epidemic. In my clinic 75 to 80% of the children I see each week have an autism diagnosis. From the studies we have published, the literature we have reviewed, and the histories we have taken of our patients I believe autism will be like cancer and have multiple causes. Like cancer, we have good treatment protocols for autism without knowing the cause, but it would be nice to know the cause--just one simple cause. It was reported to day that Andrew Wakefield, who published a study in a British medical journal linking autism to the MMR vaccine altered the medical histories of his patients. This was not a case of careless research, but an "elaborate fraud" as quoted by the British medical journal. Since Wakefield's article vaccination rates have gone down and predictably cases of measles and other diseases have gone up. Wakefield has lost his medical license, no one can reproduce his results, his co-authors have removed their names from the article, and the journal Lancet retracted the article. But all this will do little to dissuade Wakefield's supporters. Usually, autism is diagnosed between the second and third year of life. And the only thing that happened that year according to the parent's recollections was the vaccinations. It is very hard for parents to let go of that.