Medical Comorbidities in Autism Spectrum Disorder


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex and highly heterogeneous neurodevelopmental condition. While ASD is currently diagnosed on the basis of the presence and severity of core abnormalities in social communication and repetitive behaviours, many common medical conditions are now known to be significantly more prevalent in people with ASD compared to the general population. Premature mortality is also significantly increased in ASD. Yet, according to widespread reports and published case studies, there have been many cases of symptoms of medical conditions, sometimes severe, being attributed without investigation to ‘behaviours’, ‘mental health issues’ or just ASD itself.

Difficulties with communication can represent a significant barrier to accessing appropriate health care for individuals with ASD. These problems can be compounded if a parent or a carer is not aware that symptoms should be reported as important, especially if these symptoms have been dismissed any time in the past. The onus is on healthcare and other professionals working in partnership with parents and carers to recognise and respond to these challenges in order to adequately treat people with ASD.

The fast-changing research literature is summarised in this document in order to support all responsible parties towards understanding the possible mechanisms, symptomatology, behaviours and other possible consequences of medical comorbidities in ASD, thus enabling improved patient care, enhanced quality of life for people with ASD, reduced dependency and decreased long-term costs.