Epilepsy in autism spectrum disorders
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- Canitano, R. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry (2007) 16: 61. doi:10.1007/s00787-006-0563-2
Epilepsy is quite common in autism spectrum disorders, and it is increasingly recognized as an additional clinical problem that must be dealt with. The rate of comorbidity varies, depending upon the age and type of disorder, and currently the conservative estimate of comorbidity cases is 20–25% of the whole spectrum. Major risk factors for seizure occurrence are mental retardation and additional neurological disorders, as well as some specific associated medical conditions. Autism with regression has been reported in one-third of children with previously normal or nearly normal development. In an unknown proportion of these subjects, epileptic disorders are concomitant, leading to so-called autistic epileptiform regression. Furthermore, epileptiform abnormalities without seizures are frequent in this population and their role in the development of the nuclear disturbances of autism is controversial. The therapeutic approaches to epilepsy in autism are conventional treatments, yet when seizures are not evident, there is still controversy. Anticonvulsant medications could also potentially interfere with mood and behavioral disturbances frequently observed in ASD. The current understanding of the association between epilepsy and autism is still limited, but from a clinical point of view this association should not be overlooked, and it should be routinely investigated.