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Medical comorbidities in autism: Challenges to diagnosis and treatment


Ever since its original description by Leo Kanner in 1943, autism has been generally defined by its clinical characteristics and core symptoms that include impaired social skills, isolated areas of interest, and delayed and disordered language. Over time, it has become apparent that autism is a heterogeneous disorder with regard to its clinical presentation, etiology, underlying neurobiology, and degree of severity. As a result, the termed diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has come into common usage. With advancements in clinical care, there has come the appreciation that many ASD children, adolescents, and adults may have medically relevant disorders that may negatively impact their developmental progress and behavior, but which frequently go undetected. Many of these medical conditions are treatable, often resulting in improved developmental gains and quality of life for the patient and family. In addition, the possibility exists that some of these medical conditions may suggest the presence of important genetic and/or biologic markers, which, if identified, can refine our ability to be more precise in categorizing clinical and genetic subtypes within the autism spectrum.


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Correspondence to Margaret L. Bauman.

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Bauman, M.L. Medical comorbidities in autism: Challenges to diagnosis and treatment. Neurotherapeutics 7, 320–327 (2010).

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Key Words

  • Autism
  • medical conditions
  • atypical behaviors
  • diagnosis
  • management