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Indian J Med Sci. 2006 May;60(5):205-15.

Autism: A review for family physicians.

Author information

  • Developmental Clinic, Division of Pediatric Neurology, Department of Pediatrics, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College and General Hospital, Sion, Mumbai - 400 022, India. karandesunil@yahoo.com

Abstract

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by qualitative impairments in social interaction and communication, with restricted, repetitive, stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities. These behaviors manifest along a wide spectrum and commence before 36 months of age. Diagnosis of autism is made by ascertaining whether the child's specific behaviors meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV-Revised criteria. Its etiology is still unclear but recent studies suggest that genetics plays a major role in conferring susceptibility. Recent neuroimaging research studies indicate that autism may be caused by atypical functioning in the central nervous system, particularly in the limbic system: amygdala and hippocampus. In a third of autistic children, loss of language and/or social skills occurs during the second year of life, usually between 15 and 21 months of age. Comorbidity with mental retardation, epilepsy, disruptive behaviors and learning difficulty is not uncommon. Although there is currently no known cure for autism there is evidence to suggest that early intervention therapy can improve functioning of autistic children. Judicious use of psychotropic drugs is necessary to manage associated aggression, hyperactivity, self-mutilation, temper tantrums; but drugs are not a substitute for behavioral and educational interventions. The family physician can play an important role in detecting autism early, coordinating its assessment and treatment, counseling the parents and classroom teacher, and monitoring the child's progress on a long term basis.

PMID:
16733293
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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