Autistic children with severely limited diets may be at risk for vision loss due to vitamin B12 deficiency, according to new research from Children's Hospital. The study team led by Stacy Pineles, MD, evaluated three boys with autism who exhibited behaviors that indicated vision loss and found optic nerve damage and low levels of vitamin B12. After administering a shot of intramuscular vitamin B12, the researchers found that the visual behavior improved modestly in each child after normal levels were reached.
There have been many associations between autism and feeding difficulties. Diet-related deficiencies can cause illness such as rickets, scurvy, and dry eyes. The children in this study, which appears in Pediatrics, ate almost no meat or dairy products, important sources of vitamin B12. Parents of children who limit their diets should seek evaluation by a pediatric ophthalmologist or neuro-ophthalmologist who can perform a careful examination to rule out optic nerve damage.
"Children who refuse foods from animal sources, such as meat and dairy products are specifically at a higher risk for vitamin B12 deficiency," says Grant T. Liu, MD, senior author of the study. "In our experience, B12 deficiency optic neuropathy in autism is a recognizable, treatable, and at least partially reversible disorder."