Archive for August, 2010
Generally, we look to medical associations and scientists when it comes to gauging the effectiveness of medicines and creating links in the health field, but the federal appeals court has recently weighed in on the vaccination debate. A special vaccine court ruled last year that there is little, if any, evidence to support the claim that vaccines—the MMR vaccine in particular—causes autism. When Dr. Wakefield reported the supposed link years ago, more than 5,500 families sought compensation under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. But as we’ve reported before, Dr. Wakefield’s findings have been discredited by virtually everyone in the medical community.
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision, saying that there was only weak and contradictory evidence to support the claim. The vaccine court also found that thimerosal, an additive in vaccines, was not responsible for causing autism, which many had claimed.
Vaccination has come under fire for everything from being the cause of autism to acting as a vehicle for the government to control the masses. It’s easy to get caught up in the polarized, sensational debate about vaccines because emotions run so deep on the issue, but it’s important to look at all of the factors. Some people debate the effectiveness of vaccination, but there’s no denying that the rate of cases of polio, smallpox, measles and similar diseases has dwindled since vaccines were introduced.
We’ve often discussed the recent fall from grace of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the first to make the link between autism and vaccines, which has put the autism-vaccination link in question. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a rational and unbiased person who thinks that the government has hatched a nefarious plot to control us through vaccines. Admittedly, there certain vaccines out there with spotty results, and foregoing a flu vaccine isn’t the end of the world. But when it comes to things like MMR, diseases which have seen a resurgence since Dr. Wakefield advised against them, it’s seems in the greater good to protect yourself and therefore those around you.
Now that we have fancy digital thermometers and our hats aren’t created with excess amounts of mercury, it’s easy to dismiss mercury poisoning as a thing of the past. But just because our risk has diminished doesn’t mean it has disappeared. Many of the foods we eat—particularly large fish and bottom dwelling sea creatures—are loaded with mercury.
This isn’t a problem for most people, but fetuses and young children are very susceptible to mercury poisoning. As such, it’s imperative to limit or eliminate the amount of seafood you eat while you are pregnant and breast-feeding. Some of the birth defects mercury poisoning causes include: neurological problems, muscular disorders, anti-social behavior, and some even think it contributes to autism.
Thanks to an increased understanding of heavy metals and their dangers, mercury and other forms of metal poisoning are becoming increasingly rare. However, cases of heavy metal poisoning do arise, and when they do, it’s nice to know that we now have effective treatment measures in place. In the past, people used to work with heavy metals on a regular basis and suffer severe poisoning that often went undetected and untreated.
Today chelation therapy is the most common treatment for those who acquire heavy metal poisoning, which comes from overexposure to lead, arsenic or mercury and can create a glut of symptoms. Chelation is simply the act of adding chelating agents to the bloodstream, which then work to eradicate the heavy metals. Many different chelating agents are used today depending on the patient, metal and preference of the clinician.
In this blog we discuss the myriad different autism treatments people try—from chelation therapy to weighted blankets. Unfortunately, the results from any of these treatments varies depending on the individual, and there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support any one method. Antidepressants is a commonly prescribed treatment for autism, but new research from Cochrane Researchers say there is no evidence that suggests the medication is effective in treating autism in children.
There has been some evidence showing that the treatment works in some adults, but the same can’t be said about children. This study is particularly important because many children may suffer adverse side effects from taking antidepressants. So with no scientific evidence to back the treatment, it’s not worth putting your child’s health in further jeopardy.
When you consider how little autism information we have, it can be somewhat discouraging. Nobody knows what causes the spectrum of disorders and there isn’t even a clear set of symptoms. But if you read autism news, you’ll see that every week new findings are being made that give us reason to be optimistic about the future of autism treatment. Just in the last month, we’ve seen several new methods for testing autism arise, and there was another new one out today.
Researchers in Britain recently used a brain scan to correctly diagnose autism in over 90 percent of adults. More research will be needed before this becomes a common practice of course, but if physicians adopt the technology, it will be possible to test for autism in just 15 minutes. The scientists are planning to try the tests on children and say the technology could be ready for use by the public in the next few years.
Every time I think about probiotics, the concept is a little hard to wrap my head around: Bacteria that are actually beneficial? This obviously seems counterintuitive, but by definition, bacteria are simply a group of single-celled organisms. Probiotics—the beneficial bacteria—are typically found in cultured milk products such as yogurt.
Researchers have already found myriad ways to utilize probiotics, but they are constantly looking for new diseases and disorders that respond to treatment. Probiotics have been used in conjunction with antibiotics as a way to reduce the adverse side effects. In clinical studies, probiotics have also been used effectively to curtail eczema, thwart the creation of stomach ulcers and reduce the risk of colon cancer. There has also been research into their ability to combat diarrhea, bacterial infections, and a host of other diseases and disorders.
We always talk about how hard it is to diagnose autism because it encompasses such a wide spectrum of disorders. Insurance companies have traditionally used this as a loophole to avoid giving coverage (surprise, surprise). But on the heels of the nationwide health care reform bill, some states have been empowered to take matters into their own hands when it comes to raising autism awareness and advocating for their rights.
Both New Hampshire and Massachusetts have recently signed bills into law requiring insurance companies to offer more coverage for treatments. You can plan on the insurance companies to take measures to subsidize these costs, of course, but it’s still an important step forward in the battle to combat autism. And with all of the new findings pertaining to treatment and diagnoses of the disorder, it’s essential to ensure people are covered.
In our last post we discussed a new finding that suggests there may be a common genetic link for those with autism. A new study released today adds more fuel to that hypothesis, as researchers found that the closest relatives of those with autism often move their eyes in subtly different ways. These differences are so minimal the people themselves won’t even notice them. But when observed in a lab, the differences are discernible.
This commonality among people with autism and their relatives is further evidence that genetics and heredity are causes of autism. Mathew Mosconi, a scientist who worked on the study, says that by studying eye movements scientists may be able to determine which specific systems the disorder is affecting. Eventually, the researchers hope to use the findings to develop new autism treatments.