What Causes Autism?


Quick Answer

The exact cause of autism is unknown, explains Autism Society, though the disorder is most likely caused by structural brain abnormalities or functioning. Autism likely has a genetic component as well, and one theory hypothesizes that a cluster of unstable genes reacts differently in people who develop autism.

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What Causes Autism?
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Full Answer

Autism Society explains that people with autism frequently have other medical conditions, such as fragile X syndrome, but it is unknown how the various disorders are connected. People with autism may have exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins, but it is unknown whether environmental dangers cause autism or whether people who are predisposed to autism simply have a stronger reaction to exposure.

A belief that vaccines cause autism has arisen; however, there is no medical basis for this idea. CNN explains the belief that vaccines caused autism developed after British doctor Andrew Wakefield released a scientific paper in 1998, detailing the supposed link between autism and vaccines. In 2011, CNN reported that Wakefield made up all of the data and case studies in the 1998 paper. Also in 2011, Wakefield was stripped of his medical license, and Lancet, the medical journal that originally published his study, retracted its endorsement of the paper. Another medical journal, BMJ, conducted an investigation that determined Wakefield received about $674,000 from a team of lawyers who were hoping to establish a link between vaccines and autism in order to open up the potential for profitable litigation. As of 2014, the Center for Disease Control affirms that there is no link between vaccines and autism.

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