Nearly half of children with autism experience GI problems

Nearly half of children with autism experience GI problems

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Data presented this weekend at the 2010 Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting add to the poorly understood relationship between gastrointestinal symptoms and autism spectrum disorders — suggesting that GI symptoms are, in fact, common and may increase as children get older.

The study, conducted by the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, involved data from 15 treatment and research centers in the United States and Canada and included information from 1,185 children aged 2 to18 years with a diagnosis of autism, Asperger’s syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified.

The researchers determined that 45% of these children had GI symptoms at the time of enrollment, with abdominal pain (59%), constipation (51%) and diarrhea (43%) most commonly reported. Older children were more likely than younger children to experience GI symptoms (39% of children younger than 5 years vs. 51% of children aged 7 and older), data indicated, and sleep problems (70% vs. 30%) were more prevalent in this group as well.

Results from parent-completed Child Behavior Checklists indicated that younger children with reported GI symptoms had higher t-scores for total problem; emotionally reactive; anxious/depressed; somatic complaints; sleep problems; internalizing problems; affective problems; and anxiety problems subscales (P< .05). Children with reported GI problems in the 6-to-18 age group had higher t-scores for total problems and for all subscales (P<.01). Overall reported health-related quality of life was lower among children who experienced GI symptoms (P<.01). "These findings suggest that better evaluation of GI symptoms and subsequent treatment may have benefits for these patients," said Daniel Coury, MD, medical director of the Autism Treatment Network, and professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Ohio State University in Columbus. "Primary care physicians and specialists should ask families about these symptoms and address these as part of the overall management plan for the child or adolescent with ASD." – by Nicole Blazek For more information: •Williams K. #2320.7. Presented at: 2010 Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting; May 1-4, 2010; Vancouver, British Columbia.

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