Many experts describe autism as a developmental disorder that can potentially result in communication problems, social difficulties, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests. What no one can seem to agree on is what, exactly, causes autism ... and what treatment is ideal for an affected child.

The treatment question is a difficult one, because every child (or adult) with autism is different, and autistic behaviors and symptoms can greatly vary from one person to the next. While deciding on the right course of therapy will likely never be easy, there's news that seems enormously promising for those affected by the disorder: researchers believe there may soon be a drug that can help ease some of the symptoms.

In a recent study, autistic children who took this medication showed measurable improvements over a 90-day period -- and best of all, the drug's side effects were extremely mild.

The drug is called Bumetanide, and it's typically prescribed to control high blood pressure (many refer to this type of drug as a water pill). Researchers believe that the medication alters the function of a particular neurotransmitter (Gamma-aminobutyric acid), thus improving how people with autism process chemical messages in the brain.

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Researchers studied 60 autistic children between 3 and 11 over a three-month period, and they discovered reduced symptoms among the children who took bumetanide:

The effects of the medication were more pronounced in children with milder autism. In case reports included in the study, some of the improvements seen included more eye contact, improved non-verbal communication, and better social communication.

There are, of course, more studies that need to be done before anyone can declare this drug to be a recommended treatment option. Children would need to take the medication indefinitely, so the potential for long-term effects is a concern. Still, the good news is that bumetanide is already FDA-approved, so hopefully it won't take many more years before we hear more about whether this medication could be exactly what many parents have been hoping for.

Had you heard about this study? Do you think the results sound encouraging?


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