Autism is a mysteries brain disorder that impacts how one perceives and socializes with others. It’s also referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and there are a lot of rumors explaining its cause. This disorder is characterized by limited and repetitive patterns of behavior. Anyone can get autism but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that boys are more likely to get it than girls with a four-to-one male-to-female ratio. Cases of autism are on the rise with many people attributing this to environmental factors, but what things may really cause autism?

Genetic Disorder

Genetics is said to be the main cause of autism. There are certain types of genes that appear to be involved in autism spectrum disorder. Children born with autism may have gotten it from genetic disorders such as Rhett syndrome or fragile X syndrome. To others, mutation (genetic changes) may increase the chances of autism.

Also, other genes tend to affect brain development or the way brain cell communicate thus leading to the severity of the symptoms. Don’t forget some genetic mutation may be inherited, but others occur spontaneously.

Environmental Causes

Environmental aspects are said to contribute to autism. Despite several types of research being conducted, no one environmental factor has yet been found to be a definite cause of autism. The common research technique used to examine environmental risk factors for autism is epidemiology, which looks at how often and why diseases occur in different groups of people. There are certain environmental factors during prenatal life that have been linked with autism. For instance, bacterial or viral infections in the mother during pregnancy increases the chances of autism in the offspring. This is because harmful organisms could be passed from mother to the fetus through the placenta. Alternatively, the immune response of the mother may be detrimental to the developing brain of the fetus.

Brain Development

Scientists have spent considerable time trying to identify one clear brain difference that causes autism. However, this is yet to be accomplished although some studies have identified brain characteristics that are shared by different individuals to be connected with autism. This is an indicator of how autism may be caused by several things and also a reflection of how hard it is to study the brain. The commonly used techniques to understand the structure and function of the brain are magnetic fields, X-rays and radioactive chemicals. As much as these methods appear sophisticated, they don’t provide a full measure of how complex the human brain works. Basically, brain development and differences explain why some individuals with autism have difficulties internalizing information from multiple brain regions.

High Level of Testosterone in The Womb

There is some evidence, but not all, that individuals with autism might have been exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the womb. Researchers say that high testosterone concentrations in the bloodstream can be harmful and may lead to cell death, especially in the brain. Small changes in hormone levels can cause tremendous harm to the brain. Cell death caused by high levels of testosterone can alter brain development in a way that leads to autism in children. However, this is just but a theory that needs some proving. And remember that not all people with autism are exposed to excessive levels of testosterone in the womb.

Disruption of the “Good” Gut Bacteria

Scientists now have another area to look to determine the cause of autism which is the gastrointestinal (‘gut’) problem. It was clearly established that between 30 to 50 percent of people with autism experience gastrointestinal problems like constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. Doctors have always wondered why, but now there is evidence that the complex community of microbes in the guts plays a role in brain development. Therefore, scientists say that disruption in the natural balance of these bacteria may potentially lead to autism. Still, the evidence isn’t that strong but there will be substantial research in this area in coming years.

Maternal Conditions

During week eight to twelve of pregnancy, mothers might experience thyroid problems that lead to thyroxine deficiency which causes changes in the fetal brain resulting in autism. Thyroxine deficiencies are brought by inadequate iodine in the body or other factors that interfere with iodine uptake. These factors include tobacco smoke and flavonoids in food. Nevertheless, this hypothesis needs testing.


Autism has no single cause and what people do is come up with an assumption to explain its causes. Genetic abnormalities happen to be the most blamed cause of autism yet there is no specific evidence pointing to it. Links between autism and environmental or biological factors are yet to be discovered. It’s impossible to prevent autism, but there are treatment options. The key thing is early diagnosis and intervention which will help improve behavior, skills and language development. But intervention can still happen at any age which is very helpful.

All images by Pixabay


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