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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Pervasive Developmental Disorder

Pervasive Developmental Disorder

Alternate Names : PDD

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Pervasive developmental disorder, or PDD, is a set of complex disorders that affect the brain. PDDs are characterized by an intense difficulty in social interaction and communication with others.

What is going on in the body?

PDD is a neurological disorder that affects the brain. It appears to affect the way a person reacts and interacts with others. PDD affects boys four times more often than girls. It is equally prevalent in people from all parts of society.

There are several different disorders that fall under the category of pervasive developmental disorders.

  • Autistic disorder, or autism, is the most severe of the PDDs. A person with autism has extreme difficulty in social interactions and communication. This is obvious before the age of 3 years.
  • Asperger's disorder includes symptoms of difficulty in social interactions and little interest in activities. There usually is no difficulty with language skills. The person may be average or above average for age in intellectual testing.
  • Rett's disorder is only seen in girls. It is characterized by normal behavior at first and then sudden loss of skills and loss of control of the hands. This is followed by repetitive hand gestures, such as flapping. Symptoms usually begin between the ages of 1 and 4 years.
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder, or CDD, is a disorder in which normal development is seen until the age of 2 years and then a loss of social skills and a tendency toward autistic behavior occurs.
  • Pervasive developmental disorder-nonspecific may be considered when symptoms of the other disorders are not present but there is a considerable difficulty with specific behaviors.
  • Symptoms can vary in intensity in any of these disorders. Some people may have severe symptoms that affect their lives dramatically. Others have symptoms that they are able to adjust for easily.

    What are the causes and risks of the disease?

    The causes of PDD are not well known. Some cases may be genetic, although this has not been proven. What is known is that PDD is not caused by bad parenting, mental illness, or "that a kid just doesn't want to behave." Psychological factors have not been found to contribute to PDD.

    Some cases of PDD have been associated with trauma, disease, or structural abnormalities before or during birth, including:

  • the mother having rubella, or German measles, while she was pregnant
  • untreated phenylketonuria, a problem in the body's ability to handle certain chemicals named phenylketones
  • lack of oxygen during birth
  • encephalitis or other serious infections affecting the brain as an infant
  • spasms from a variety of illnesses during infancy


    Next section


    Pervasive Developmental Disorder: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Reviewer: Lama Rimawi, MD
    Date Reviewed: 07/27/01

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