The autistic disorder is a life lasting neurological disorder involving also the childhood disintegrative disorder, Asperger disorder, Rett disorder and the pervasive development disorder. Autism is registered as one of the five pervasive development disorders and is usually diagnosed around the age of three.
The most important pathological changes caused by autism are communication difficulties, impaired social interaction and restrictive activities; children with autism have generally repetitive activities and interests and most of the other actions specific to children their age represent no real interest to them.
Children suffering from autism are more susceptive to developing epilepsy; they have different degrees of mental retardation and show abnormal responses to different sensor stimulations like light or sound. Some of these patients show an aggressive behavior especially with self-injuring tendencies such as beating themselves or head banging.
One third of the autistic children have proven an almost normal IQ level for their age and many of them are even able to respond with own actions to the environment. Some of the patients can show their own emotions and affection towards persons around them; some of the sick persons can only be measured as autistic like, with autistic tendencies or with an autism spectrum. The disease is normally cataloged as a high-functioning or a low-functioning autism.
Children with a high function of autism show almost normal behavior but may present language and interaction difficulties. They will initiate a conversation favorite subject in spite of the effort the others do to train them into a talk. They talk incessantly about one particular subject and ignore the other attempts of talking.
Autistic patients require a life-long care and treatment as there is no actual cure for the disorder. If an early intervention is initiated, some of them may even be able to learn or function in a productive way. The neurological disease called autism is known to affect 1-2 children in about 1000 births. Today, one and a half million persons in the USA suffer from different forms of autistic disorder. The disease tends to affect four times more boys than girls, and according to the latest studies the occurrence of autism has shown an about 10-17% increase every year.
The actual cause of autism has not yet been revealed but a disruption in the fetal brain during the intra uterine development is believed to contribute to the disorder. Patients seem to have problems in the brain function but also abnormalities in several brain sections. This abnormal brain changes may have been triggered by viral infections, metabolic disorders, environmental or genetic factors. Some of the risk factors may have acted during pregnancy or during the child delivery. Also a group of genes believed to be involved in the apparition of autism has been detected.
Intensive scientific research is made to determine the exact role the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine may have in the occurrence of autism. Cholesterol seems to play an important role as many of the patients have low cholesterol levels in their blood.