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Autism and physical health

Discussion in 'Autism Spectrum News, Events and Research' started by Greatshield17, Feb 18, 2021.

  1. Greatshield17

    Greatshield17 Catholic Nerd V.I.P Member

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    I heard on the news last night that people with Autism are more vulnerable to physical ailments, now they may have been referring to level 2 and up types of Autism, (I kind of have issues with Aspergers being re-branded level 1 Autism for reasons like this.) and maybe some of the conditions people with lv. 2 and up Autism are in makes them more vulnerable to physical ailments; but I guess that just leads to the question I’m asking here, are people Autism more vulnerable to physical disease? Is it all levels or some? And what contributes to that, is it behaviour, stress or something else?

    I remember back when I was a teenager I used to get sick all the time, but then I made a change in my life-style and now I hardly ever get sick, and I’m pretty sure it was the fact that the change in my life-style dramatically reduced the level of stress and thus, greatly strengthened my immune system.
     
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  2. Neonatal RRT

    Neonatal RRT Well-Known Member

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    There is some evidence of this in the medical literature. It is a combination of factors, but a primary one is the effects of chronic stress upon the immune system. It would be an interesting study to look at the severity of disease or death from CoVID-19 comparing those with an ASD vs neurotypical controls,...as I would expect worse statistics for those on the spectrum. For many of us, anxiety is a way of life,...we know this is, in part, due to neurotransmitter imbalances, and in part, due to lower levels of cognitive empathy that creates varying degrees of miscommunication, misinterpretation, and social distrust. This can lead to elevated levels of cortisol,...which can lead to weight gain or that "soft" tissue appearance, but also dampens down the immune response similar to taking corticosteroids. One may find elevated heart rate or blood pressure in the physician's office,...even if you have no outward feelings of anxiety. It can, over time, negatively affect the cardiovascular system,...increasing the risk of cardiovascular events. Neurotransmitter imbalances, usually from excess excitability, can lead to oxidative stress, lower immune function, and even cell death within the brain, itself. Autism is also one of the "low dopamine" neurological conditions, leading to varying degrees of depression, self-harm, and even suicide. This same condition can lead to eating disorders, pre-diabetes, diabetes, obesity, and all the physical and mental sequelae from that.

    Just a start, from off the top of my head here, but you get the idea.
     
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  3. _eri_bellehumeur

    _eri_bellehumeur Active Member

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    This is really interesting. I haven't done a lot of research on the topic, but it makes sense. Because of anxiety and stress concerned with medical professionals, I don't really seek out attention until it is absolutely necessary (I am in unmanageable pain) and I know that some of my autism traits like sound sensitivity, and dislike for being touched are significant factors in this. This has particularly impacted my teeth, as for far too many years I refused to go to a dentist. From what I've read, neurodiverse people like individuals with ADHD and ASD seem to have issues with their teeth, and I have also found articles that say people with autism have a higher prevalence of deafness or hearing difficulties. The proposed explanations I've seen is that people with autism can be less likely to seek medical attention because of sensory and anxiety related concerns, but also that some individuals can have very specific eating habits, or teeth cleaning habits that aren't necessarily helpful. How much your teeth have an effect on everything from mental health, to physical health (pain, migraines, cardiac issues, infections and all kinds of other stuff) is really crazy.

    There is all kinds of ways that health differences happen, but I do think that an even bigger impact has to do with the chronic anxiety that people on the spectrum seem to experience, and what that does to the immune system.
     
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  4. Gracey

    Gracey Well-Known Member

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    Coordination, visual-motor control, balance issues, in addition to joint issues (EDS) may make physical exercise and fitness less likely.

    Sensory issues may make dental, auditory and sight tests less frequent than advised.
    Along with food issues over textures and tastes, also not eating regularly - especially if obsessing over a project -
    will contribute to a lack of essential nutrients and a knock on effect to physical wellbeing.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2021
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  5. dragonfire42

    dragonfire42 Perpetual outsider

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    Well, I can say from personal experience that I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome but by today’s standards would probably be diagnosed with ASD level 2 (got the AS diagnosis because I had no speech delay) and I am only 28, but I have always been very healthy, except for having Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year. I have minor joint issues (not EDS), but that very much runs in my family (and I’m the only one diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum that I am aware of). I don’t even have any of the digestive issues that I hear are common in those on the autism spectrum. My body and immune system seems to be particularly hardy, even with having chemo during the pandemic I only got some mild upper respiratory symptoms a couple times, and comparatively, I even got off pretty easily on chemo side effects (had an extremely painful tongue for a couple days after chemo a couple times and had horrible pain in my hand joints the last couple times, but it was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting - granted I already had major symptoms such as fatigue from the lymphoma and was comparing things to how bad I felt beforehand). I seem to get off lightly on medication side effects as well, generally speaking. I do have anxiety, particularly severe social anxiety but also some general anxiety, and am extremely reluctant to seek medical attention and stuff (by the time I started the process of figuring out that I had lymphoma, the lump on my neck was clearly visible just casually looking at me and I was so fatigued that I had to stop and rest on the way from the living room to the bathroom), although I do keep up with yearly checkups and six-month dental exams (much as I don’t want to). But with many things, I tend to be the exception that supposedly proves the rule.
     
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  6. Greatshield17

    Greatshield17 Catholic Nerd V.I.P Member

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    Interesting, I actually have unusually good dental health, even by NT standards; apparently I just got born with really good dental genes.

    I still hate dentist appointments like most other Aspies and people on the spectrum.
     
  7. Major Tom

    Major Tom Searching for ground control... V.I.P Member

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    I think that if this is true, the root cause would be from poor oral hygiene. In the past 10 years or so, they've been linking things like heart disease and so on to your oral health. Crazy to think, but our whole body is related.
     
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