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5 Common Co-morbidities of Autism

Keep in Mind These 5 Common Co-morbidities of Autism

  • Food Allergies and Sensitivities
  • Gastrointestinal Problems
  • Ear Infections
  • Seizures
  • Mental Health Disorders

Autism spectrum disorder is often associated with these five common co-morbidities of the diagnosis. Children and adults who have autism may have one or more additional medical or mental health diagnoses that make autism treatment more challenging. Understanding these five common co-morbidities of autism helps parents, teachers, caregivers, and families provide the best possible care to their loved ones.

Related resource: Top 25 Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Online

1. Food Allergies and Sensitivities

Sensitivities to certain foods and food groups are more common in people with autism. They may not be able to express their stomach pain, but they may clutch their bellies after eating dairy, wheat or other foods. Allergic reactions to foods are also more common in people with autism. Dairy, nuts, wheat, eggs, and soy are the most common allergenic foods in people with autism. Allergy testing is recommended if a child or adult develops bloody stools, eczema or difficulty breathing after eating a food.

2. Gastrointestinal Problems

People with autism often have co-morbid gastrointestinal problems. They may suffer from more frequent constipation or diarrhea. Irritable bowel syndrome is also more common in people with autism than in the general population. They may suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) at a higher rate than others. These issues could be from particular eating habits or functional problems with the digestive system.

3. Ear Infections

Ear infections are a common childhood malady. Adults can also get ear infections, but they tend to do so less frequently than children. Both children and adults with autism have a higher incidence of ear infections. Their ear infections may be related to a problem with the immune system. Because people with autism may not communicate in the same way as a person who does not have the condition, parents and caregivers will need to rely on the physical signs that the person’s ears hurt.

4. Seizures

According to Valez, Ge, and Kohane in the Journal of Pediatrics, people with autism have an increased risk of seizures. In a study of electronic health records of children with autism, researchers found that a much higher than expected proportion of them had one or more seizures or a seizure disorder. The prevalence of seizures or a seizure disorder was 18 to 77 percent in the different subgroups. This is higher than the presence of seizure disorders in the general population.

5. Mental Health Disorders

Autism spectrum disorder is a mental health diagnosis. People with autism may have co-morbid mental health disorders. Those disorders may be more difficult to diagnose due to the communication difficulties in people with autism. Some of the most common co-morbid mental health disorders in people who have autism include obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, poor working memory, depression, and sensory problems. People with autism also have a higher rate of substance abuse disorders. Personality disorders, including bipolar and aggressive behavior, are also more prevalent in people with autism.

Autism is a complex condition. When a child or adult also has other conditions, their health and behavior may be difficult for parents, teachers, providers, and others to manage. The symptoms of these co-morbid conditions may also be more challenging to identify in a person with autism than they are in a person who has strong communication skills. Being aware of these five common co-morbidities of autism allows people to have a better understanding and more empathy for their loved ones.