What causes Autism?

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It was really not that long ago that the answer to this question would have been “we don’t know”. For the first time, modern research is now delivering answers on autism.

Autism is complex, and through much research we learned there is no one cause of autism. Over the past several years, scientists and researchers have identified a number of rare gene mutations, or changes rather that are associated with autism. However, genetic changes happen on a consistent basis during the course of any persons life, and only a small number of these genetic changes have a sufficient amount of data to definitively say that this is the cause of autism alone. Although a majority of autism cases appear to be caused by a combination of autism “risk genes” and environmental factors influencing early brain development.

The clearest evidence we have available to date of these autism risk factors actually occurs in events before and during birth. Some of these signs have indicated  advanced parental age at time of conception (both mom and dad), maternal (pregnancy) illnesses and certain difficulties during childbirth, particularly those cases involving any kind of oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain. It is important to keep in mind that these factors are not implying the cause autism alone, but rather a combination of genetic predisposition and those events before and during birth have suggested a modestly increased risk.

According to Autism Speaks “A growing body of research suggests that a woman can reduce her risk of having a child with autism by taking prenatal vitamins containing folic acid and/or eating a diet rich in folic acid (at least 600 mcg a day) during the months before and after conception.” Although there is currently no “cure” for autism, keeping in mind the factors that have been examined and studied is the first step for creating and improving the lives for many people. Medical professionals and researchers from around the globe are continuously looking at other various culprit factors, such as the role of the immune system in autism.

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