London, February 6 (ANI): Autism and related conditions were underdiagnosed in women and teenage girls, UK researchers have observed.
Experts due to speak at Britain's first academic conference on the issue noticed that up to 80 per cent of diagnosed cases of autism were in boys.
Richard Mills, research director of Research Autism, found that doctors and parents often fail to notice or misinterpret the symptoms of autism and Asperger syndrome, a milder form of the condition, in women and may confuse the signs with eating disorders or other problems.
"Girls are less likely to have language delay than boys with autism, so all the right boxes get ticked when they are toddlers and their autism can get missed. Autistic girls are also more likely to be outwardly social when they are younger whereas boys are less so," Times Online quoted Mills as saying.
Dr Mills added: "What was happening was that other diagnoses were being made - personality disorder or perhaps schizophrenia. This is possibly because most tests were developed around male characteristics of autism."
Janet Treasure, an expert on eating disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, pointed out that girls on the autistic spectrum often focused on diet or calorie control, which became their obsession.
She said: "Those who are severely underweight and unwell, with serious disruption of eating patterns, share a lot of the cognitive and emotional styles common to autism. Their poor nutrition means that they can't see the bigger picture, they focus on detail and have a rigid way of thinking, finding it hard to adapt."
Mark Lever, the chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said: "We are extremely concerned that many women with autism may be going undiagnosed. So many tell us that trying to get a diagnosis feels like an insurmountable hurdle and they have to fight tremendous battles to get the help, support and services they desperately need. Autism is a serious, lifelong and isabling condition and without the right support it can have a profound effect on individuals and families." (ANI)