For millions of parents around the world, the side effects of autism are all too familiar. Whether it’s speech delays, social delays, academic struggles, or any other of the myriad side effects caused by this mysterious condition, autism can show itself in many forms.
But a recent study is revealing more troubling news for patients with autism. It seems that those who have been diagnosed with autism are also at a greater risk for chronic pain conditions ranging from gastrointestinal pain,sleep disorders, fibromyalgia, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and epilepsy or seizure disorders.
Now, researchers from the University of Cambridge have discovered that autism can even increase the prevalence of the condition temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ dysfunction) in patients with autism, as they revealed in the journal Molecular Autism.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a condition of the jaw which can cause debilitating pain. It occurs when the temporomandibular joint of the jaw becomes misaligned with the jaw bone, causing it to become dislodged when the patient opens and closes their mouth.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction can cause the jaw to ‘pop’ and ‘click’ when the patient opens and closes their mouth, but it can be much worse than that. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction symptoms also include neck, shoulder, and back pain, jaw pain, teeth grinding, difficulty speaking and chewing, difficulty opening and closing the mouth, tinnitus of the ears, and even migraine headaches.
While in some cases it can be hard for autistic patients to express their pain verbally, it is important for caregivers to look out for potential symptoms like temporomandibular joint dysfunction. If you notice the patient struggling to open their mouth, massaging their jaw frequently, having trouble speaking if they are verbal, grinding their teeth, or if they are seemingly in any other pain that could be associated with temporomandibular joint dysfunction (head/neck/back pain, migraines, ear ringing) speak to Dr. Abelar about having them evaluated for TMJ dysfunction.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction could require a multifold course of treatment, including bite guards, orthodontics, physical therapy, and the treatment of pain with OTC painkillers, massage therapy, compresses, or physical therapy.